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With the Compliments of 

















Assistant Professor of History 
in Yale College 











C. D. G. 


The writer of the present pages is not a Long Islander. 
It is with some hesitation, therefore, that he presents a 
work of this nature to people whose lives have been spent 
in that beautiful region. The study grew out of a prob- 
lem that arose in a seminary given by Dr. Isaiah Bowman, 
when Assistant Professor of Geography in Yale Univer- 
sity. Professor Max Farrand suggested that the problem 
be worked into a doctor's dissertation. Under the super- 
vision of these two men the dissertation was brought to 
completion. Since the time of its submission to the fac- 
ulty of the Yale Graduate School, the work has been com- 
pletely revised. My thanks are due, not only to the two 
men who with great generosity of time and suggestion 
saw the study through its early stages, but to the authori- 
ties of the Yale University Library, the New York Public 
Library, and the Long Island Historical Society. Mr. 
H. V. Smith kindly allowed me to use notes that he had 
collected on Long Island history. Professors Charles M. 
Andrews and Allen Johnson have made many useful 
suggestions. Finally, I wish to acknowledge the invalu- 
able help rendered by my wife, whose criticism, encour- 
agement, and practical assistance in the completion of 
the manuscript and reading of proof have played a large 
part in making possible the publication of this volume. 



Preface ...... 


The Problem — A Foreword 



An Unfinished Play .... 



The Struggle for Existence 



The Influence of the Hinterland . 



Variation and Adaptation . 



The Three-Year Voyage around the World 



' < Coots,' ' " Water Witches/ ' and Englisl 


Capitalists .... 



Blue Points and Baymen . 



The Cost of Progress 



' ' Scallopers ' ' and Fishermen 



Pirates, Smugglers, and the Navigation Acts 

j 116 


Sea Trade and Shipbuilding 



Wars and Rumors of Wars 



The Passing of Mud .... 



The "Pine Barrens' ' 



The Discovery of the Out of Doors 



The New Civilization 


The Gamesters . ... 


Bibliography ..... 


Index ...... 



In this first half of the twentieth century the philosophy 
of Carlyle no longer dominates. Few men today would 
maintain, as did the famous transcendentalist, that 
" Great men are the inspired (speaking and acting) 
Texts of that divine Book of Revelations, whereof a 
chapter is completed from epoch to epoch, and by some 
named History." In our day we respect and honor the 
"Hero" but we do not believe that the history of any 
people can be summed up in the biographies of its great 
men. Thinkers who came after Carlyle saw that the 
activities of leaders could not satisfactorily explain the 
development of a nation. They sought for a surer foun- 
dation upon which to build the framework of their 
analyses. They found it in economic and social history, 
and, for the last quarter of a century, the dominant trend 
in historical writing and thinking has been in this direc- 
tion. It may be, however, that the pendulum has swung 
too far away from the doctrines of the philosopher of the 
last century. Perhaps, sometimes, we have lost sight of 
the spirituality of men in the materialism of economics. 
History, after all, is the story of the deeds of leaders. 
If, however, that story of the leaders and their work be 
not founded upon the silent, unheroic forces of evolution, 
it is a house built upon the sands. 

If it be true that the trend in present-day historical 
writing and thinking has been toward the economic and 
social explanation, it is also true that with this explana- 
tion men have, in the main, been content. We have traced 
the development in the adaptations of peoples to their 


social and economic environment, their cities, their indus- 
tries, and their customs, and have many times believed 
that we had taken into account all the factors of evolution. 
We have too often forgotten that literally underneath the 
unfolding life of any people is the earth itself and the 
great natural forces which play both with it and upon it. 
This is the natural environment, the mountains, the 
rivers, the sea, and all that complex of energy and matter 
that makes up climate. If economics has explained many 
a hitherto unsolved enigma, a study of this environment 
will explain many more. Civilization has in no way 
diminished man's ultimate dependence upon the earth. 

The problem of the present study is to trace the de- 
velopment of a people as it has been affected, not only by 
its social and economic, but by its natural surroundings. 
Long Island is a definite entity, with boundaries fixed and 
easily determined. On every side the sea washes its 
shores. It is not, however, an oceanic island, isolated in 
the midst of one of the broad seas. It is a fragment of 
the North American continent, and its life is inextricably 
intermingled with that of the greater land body. Lying 
off the Atlantic coast of the United States it is, in reality, 
a part of that eastern coast zone which stretches back 
from the water's edge to the ridges of the Appalachians. 
Like every such coastal region, it is a transition zone be- 
tween the two dominant forms of the earth's surface, the 
land and the sea. 

Long Island, however, is not a typical coastal area with 
the sea on one side and the hinterland on the other. In 
this region the influence of both of these factors is greatly 
intensified. The ocean, literally surrounding the Island 
and asserting its mastery in a multitude of coves, bays, 
and harbors, would seem to be in a fair position to domi- 
nate the life of the region. But Long Island is set down 
in an unusual position. Three gateways open into the 


broad interior of America, the Mississippi, the St. Law- 
rence, and the Hudson-Mohawk valleys. The first is far 
from Europe and the second is icebound during parts of 
the year. It is the Hudson, the central gateway, there- 
fore, that, working through a system of lakes, canals, and 
railways, taps the limitless resources of the heart of the 
North American continent. It is this hinterland, acting 
through the metropolis which it has created at the 
entrance to the greatest of the three gateways, that con- 
tends with the encircling sea for the mastery of Long 
Island. These are the giant gamesters that play at mov- 
ing hither and thither the kings, queens, castles, and 
pawns in the great game that is still unfinished. The 
story of this game is the problem of these pages. 


It was in an age when the sea was asserting its power and 
making for the last time a wide extension of its dominions, 
an age when the land was undergoing great readjust- 
ments that were ultimately to check the onslaught of the 
oceans and to fix the boundaries of the continents, that the 
foundations of Long Island were laid down. The story 
began at the end of the Paleozoic era, that long period of 
geologic ancient history, the close of which was marked 
by a world-shaking revolution. It seemed as though the 
earth were shrinking. The sea, which for millions of 
years had covered a large part of North America, receded, 
and an immense folding, to shorten the crust of the globe, 
piled up in eastern America a mountain range with peaks 
three miles and more in height. What is left of this range 
is called the Appalachians. The place which is now Long 
Island lay in the eastern foothills of this mountain sys- 
tem. There were no marks or boundaries to differentiate 
it from the surrounding area. It was simply a tiny spot 
in the interior of a broad land-mass. 1 

With the completion of the bowing up of the great 
eastern ranges, the ancient Paleozoic times came to an 
end and the middle ages, the Mesozoic era, were ushered 
in. The Appalachian system, its foothills, and the broad 
land-mass that lay to the east and west of it were attacked 
by all the agencies of subaerial erosion. As the sculptor 

i Pirsson and Schuchert, A Text-Book of Geology, pp. 748-749. 


with tedious labor reduces the rough marble to smooth- 
ness, so the wind, rain, and rivers, working through thou- 
sands of centuries, base-leveled the great rock folds until 
what had been one of the great mountain chains of history 
took on the appearance of a rolling plain. On the west 
this plain reached well into the interior of the continent, 
and on the east, spreading beyond the old mountain area, 
it stretched its flat slopes far into the present Atlantic. 1 
Over the slowly dissolving uplands roamed the creatures 
of the Mesozoic, the saurians, reptiles great and small, 
who ruled the earth, air, and ocean of those days. 

There is no space here to describe the details of this 
erosion process or the many significant events in the his- 
tory of the geologic middle ages. One episode, and that 
at the very end, must suffice. The era of the Mesozoic 
was brought to a close by a crustal disturbance second 
only in intensity to that of the Appalachian revolution. 
From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego the surface of the 
earth was cracked and folded, the result of mighty strains 
and stresses. When the tremors of the disturbance had 
died away, the snow-capped ranges of the Cordilleras 
stretched, as they do today, from the Arctic to the Antarc- 
tic. 2 These earth-shaking forces which piled up the 
Eockies made themselves felt in the east. The base- 
leveled country, part of which had once been the Appa- 
lachians, felt a heave from the northwest. Slowly and 
steadily the broad plain, like a giant table, was tilted. 
Its southeastern half sank below the waters of the At- 
lantic. Century after century, the sea crept westward 
from beach to beach, until, at last, it stopped somewhere 
near the eastern edge of the present Appalachians. The 

i Pirsson and Schuehert, pp. 813, 814, 846, 849. The bulk of this erosion 
took place during Jurassic time. The details of the Triassic and Jurassic 
erosion cycles have been omitted. 

2 IUd., pp. 901-902. 


place which was to become Long Island lay under water 
a little way off shore. 1 

The differential tilting of the broad eastern plain lifted 
up the broad core of the old worn-down Appalachian sys- 
tem. Eejuvenated rivers began again to cut deep valleys 
and to bring down to the sea loads of sediment from 
the new uplands. As time passed, these uplands were 
chiseled into the low, rounded, parallel ridges of folded 
sedimentaries that characterize the Appalachians of our 
times. It was this mountain mass that was destined to 
make a deep impress upon the history of the people of 
Long Island and of the eastern United States. The debris 
from the mountain valleys, which was carried down by 
ever flattening streams, was deposited as clays, sands, 
and marls on that part of the rock surface of the old tilted 
and partly sunken plain which now was the ocean bottom. 
It was those sediments, laid down in the angle between 
New Jersey and Connecticut, that were to become the 
foundation of Long Island. While this deposition was 
still going on, the Mesozoic era came to an end. The 
reptilian evolution ceased with dramatic suddenness and 
the dawn of the Cenozoic, the era of modern life, looked 
down upon a world in which mammals held the strong- 
holds of their saurian predecessors. During the early 
centuries of this rule of the mammals, the laying down 
of the marine strata on the old tilted plain was completed. 
With this, the first act in the drama of the making of Long 
Island came to an end. 2 

The second act opened with a general vertical uplift of 
the tilted and now well-dissected plain. Strata which had 
been laid down on the ocean bottom were now lifted above 
the level of the sea. The ocean receded and a new coast 

i Pirsson and Schuchert, p. 900 ; Fuller, The Geology of Long Island, 
p. 193. 

2 Fuller, p. 194; Pirsson and Schuchert, pp. 911-915, 927-942. 


plain of soft and loosely consolidated materials sloped 
gradually to the water's edge. As a shingle, laid to cover 
the roof below it, is shaved to a thin edge at the top and 
increases steadily in thickness to the bottom, so this 
coast plain, thin on the north and west and growing 
thicker as it approached the ocean, lay on the base-leveled 
rock surface that had once been tilted below the sea. The 
rivers which wound their ways across the older country 
continued in a normal course across the new region. 1 

It is impossible to tell in detail the story of the result- 
ing erosion. South-flowing rivers, rising in New England, 
crossed that part of the plain from which Long Island 
was to be chiseled. East and west tributaries flowing 
into these ate away the thin northern edge of the coast 
plain. In this way the surface of Connecticut was 
stripped of the sediments so recently uplifted. South of 
Connecticut, stream action began the creation of a depres- 
sion running east and west. Eiver courses developed and 
changed, how or why no one exactly knows. But the 
result is clear. A broad, shallow valley, draining ulti- 
mately to the east was formed in the place where Long 
Island Sound now lies. One standing in its bottom and 
looking southward would have seen a narrow line of low- 
lying hills separating the valley from the sea. The hills 
were to become Long Island. The depression was the 
inner lowland that lies behind a cuesta. 2 With the exca- 
vation of this Sound Valley and the consequent raising of 
Long Island in bas-relief the second act of the drama 
came to an end. 

How changed was the stage setting for the next great 
scenes! The broad, green forests, full of birds and 

i Fuller, p. 194; Bowman, Forest Physiography, p. 510. This uplift seems 
to have been a complex of movements, the details of which are not all clear. 
There was an uplift at the close of the Eocene and another at the beginning 
of the Pliocene. 

2 Bowman, pp. 509-510; Fuller, pp. 56-59. 


animals, were gone. Even the rivers and valleys and 
hills disappeared. In their ^place was a vast, bleak ex- 
panse of ice. Pinned beneath a boulder-shod ice sheet 
that covered the northern half of the North American 
continent lay the hills of Long Island and the newly 
formed Sound Valley. Not once but four times did Long 
Island feel the creep of these great glaciers. Hundreds 
of years at a time the region lay underneath or at the edge 
of these ice masses loaded with rock and gravel that had 
been picked up to the northward. When the warm sun of 
a changing climate had driven the last of these, the Wis- 
consin Ic,e, toward the Arctics, it was possible to see what 
had been done. 1 

The Sound Valley had been somewhat scoured out by 
an early advance and slightly filled in by a later one. The 
front of the third ice sheet had stood for a long time just 
north of the western half of the range of Long Island 
hills and had built them out, leaving them, upon its 
retreat, with a steep scarp facing north. But the greatest 
changes were made by the Wisconsin Ice. Twice this 
broad glacier advanced its southern edge to the top of the 
Long Island hills and stopped. Each time it built a high 
ridge of terminal moraine. The first moraine extended 
from the western part of the island to Montauk Point and 
the second kept well to the north of Orient Point. And 
south of each of these ridges sloped the gently dipping 
sands and gravels of glacial outwash. The moraines 
form the present hills of the region, the "backbone of 
Long Island/ ' in the language of its people. The outwash 
plains make up the flat country covered sometimes with 
prosperous farms but more often with stunted pine and 
scrub oak. 

With one more episode the story of the third act is com- 
plete. As a result of the changing elevations that 

i Fuller, pp. 195-212. 


occurred during the ice age the sea came in to fill not only 
the Sound Valley but the low land between the eastern 
termini of the Wisconsin moraines. The new Sound made 
the hill country to the south of it an island, while Peconic 
Bay split its eastern end into two long, roughly parallel 
peninsulas. In this third act, Long Island, as a separate 
entity, came into being. 

At the opening of the last act, Long Island, again 
covered with a mantle of forest, looked much as it does 
today. In its outline it suggested a huge fish lying with 
its blunt head at New York Bay and the two flukes of 
its tail stretching to Orient and Montauk points. Its 
greatest length must have been just over a hundred miles 
and its greatest width a little less than a score. Through 
the length of the Island ran the two morainic ridges. 
South of them the broad, flat, outwash plains sloped grad- 
ually to an irregular coast line whence they dipped grad- 
ually beneath a shallow sea. On the north shore was an 
abrupt escarpment, smooth and straight in the east but 
indented, west of Port Jefferson harbor, with many deep 
and sheltered fiords. It was this island that now began 
to be shaped into its present form by wind and rain and 

The wind has played its part, for Long Island is sandy. 
Here and there in the level stretches of the interior 
rounded hills can be found, old sand dunes now caught 
and held by the roots of vegetation. In the Shinnecock 
Hills these were active scarcely more than a century ago. 
But on many parts of the bluffs of the north shore and 
the exposed beaches of the south the dunes still drift as 
the wind drives them, evidence that the form and surface 
of Long Island are not yet fixed. 1 

It is the sea, however, that is playing the dominant part 
in the present sculptoring of this fragment of the North 

i Fuller, pp. 180-183. 


American continent. The Wisconsin Ice had barely 
receded when the waves began their attack on the 
northern escarpment. In the east the assault was most 
effective. The constant nndermining of the surf pushed 
the scarp southward until, in places, the morainic ridge 
has been cut through and the cross section of the outwash 
apron laid bare. In the west many of the headlands have 
been truncated and the material gathered by this erosion 
used to build sand bars, sometimes threatening to enclose 
the mouths of harbors and often connecting small out- 
lying islands with the mainland. It is this constant 
assault of the waves which has made and is yet making 
the naked dirt cliffs of the north shore. 1 

Along the flat, irregular southern beach of glacial times 
the situation has been quite different. As soon as the 
Wisconsin Ice had gone, waves arid currents attacked the 
southern side of the long Montauk peninsula with nothing 
to shelter the beach from the full power of the Atlantic. 
From Southampton to the Point, the land has been cut 
back hundreds of yards and the fragments ground up in 
the mill of the surf. This material taken from the Mon- 
tauk peninsula has been, and still is being, carried west- 
ward by the littoral currents which have used it to build 
a series of long, narrow barrier beaches from Southamp- 
ton to Coney Island. Fire Island Beach, the longest of 
these, stretches west from Southampton more than forty- 
five miles to the Fire Island inlet, with an average width 
of one-fourth of a mile. West of the inlet, Oak Island 
Beach, Short Beach, Long Beach, and Rockaway Beach, 
to mention only the more important, have been brought 
about in the same fashion. It is these beaches, built up 
by the westward-flowing littoral currents, that have 
brought into being the enclosed waters of the south shore 
— Shinnecock Bay, Moriches Bay, Great South Bay, and 

i Bowman, p. 507. 


the rest. The wrecks which line the outer sands of these 
sand barriers are mute evidence of how different the quiet 
life of the southern shore would have been without them. 1 
The curtain has never been rung down on this fourth 
act of the great drama. Though the murmurs of the 
primeval forests have given place to the noise of cities, 
the play goes on. Though civilized men have lived upon 
the island for nearly three hundred years, the wind still 
drives the dunes, the streams still carry the hills to the 
sea, and the ocean still carves and remakes the shores at 
will. It has not been given to man to control the elements. 
His task has been to take things as he found them, the 
changing hills and plains and shores, and to adapt himself 
as best he could to them. It is not strange, therefore, that 
those factors which have played such fundamental parts 
in the drama, the near-by continent, the Appalachians, the 
rivers, and the sea, should guide and direct the evolution 
of human life upon the Island. The elemental forces that 
have been operating since the beginning of things on the 
earth are still at work. It has been the task of the genera- 
tions of Long Island people, as of every other people, to 
make true and sure their adjustments to the inevitable. 

i Fuller, pp. 177-179. 


It was in the first half of the seventeenth century that a 
few of the worthy Dutchmen from the little frontier trad- 
ing post on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, crossed 
the East River and laid out their boweries on the hills and 
flats of the Breukelen region. These were the first civi- 
lized men and women to come to Long Island to live. Not 
many years later small ships could have been seen at one 
time and another carefully working their way around the 
irregularities of the strange coasts of the eastern penin- 
sulas. Piles of goods surrounded by little knots of people 
appeared on the beach, two on the straight shore line of 
the southern side of the Montauk peninsula where the 
ocean had been cutting back for centuries, and one on the 
sheltered southern slope of the northern peninsula. The 
names of the hamlets thus founded — Southampton, East 
Hampton, and Southold — tell of their English origin. 
Long Island lay between the Dutch holdings at New Am- 
sterdam and the English settlements of Massachusetts 
Bay and the Connecticut Valley. The frontier periph- 
eries, steadily widening, finally touched the Island, and 
both English and Dutch gained footholds in those parts 
of the region nearest their important population centres. 
For the Dutch, within sight of the little New Amster- 
dam fort, the adventure was not so hazardous, but for 
those first small companies of Englishmen and New Eng- 
enders, who unloaded their belongings onto the beaches 
of the eastern peninsulas, the prospect must have been 


awe inspiring. Behind them lay the ocean over which 
they had come ; before them, as far back from the shore 
as they could see, stretched an nnbroken forest. From 
this they must wrest, by force and cunning, the means of 
subsistence. These men and women stood face to face 
with a struggle for existence in an environment un- 
softened by the touch of civilization. As was the case 
among the primitive tribes of Indians, — their new neigh- 
bors, — the individual's penalty for failure was suffering 
and perhaps death. The little piles on the beach must 
have seemed scanty equipment, indeed, with which to 
meet the problems that lay before them. Yet their lot 
was no different from that of other pioneers. They found 
the same problems as did the Puritans of New England 
or the settlers of the South. 

It is not strange that these little pioneer companies 
built their hamlets near the shore where were to be found 
the only means of communication with the people and the 
civilization they had left. Nor is it strange that they 
developed at once a group organization to meet the diffi- 
culties of their situation. Stories are told of herds of 
bison, in the old prairie days, that would make a circle, 
back to back, a ring of horns to fight off their enemies of 
the plains. From the same necessity, the early frontiers- 
men made groups so that they might stand together 
against the dangers of the forest. Their cabins, huddled 
together, were "fenced all around with pallissades or 
long boards and closed with gates, which is advantageous 
in case of attack by the natives. ,n As a community they 
acquired their land and later parceled it out among the 
individuals. Their laws were made at a meeting of all. 
The village group became the strong point of offense and 
defense in the struggle against the wilderness. 2 

i N. Y. Col. Docts., I, 368. 

2 The lands at the end of the Montauk peninsula were owned in common 


Their villages were laid out after the fashion of New 
England. On either side of the central street straggled 
the homes of the people, sometimes rude cabins quickly 
thrown up, sometimes cellar-like pits, six or seven feet 
deep, lined with something to prevent the caving of the 
earth, and covered with a roof of bark or green sod. 1 
These were the homes of a people, not great and powerful, 
but poor and often ignorant. Close to the cabins lay the 
"Common," reserved for the use of all. Beyond this the 
rest of the land was divided up from time to time among 
the members of the company. 2 As the seventeenth cen- 
tury wore on, such small, palisaded towns began to dot 
the western end of the Island and to create a line of clear- 
ings along the fiord-indented northern shore. Gravesend, 
Hempstead, Newtown, Huntington, Smithtown were, with 
one or two exceptions, built near the water. In these 
diminutive communities, visited by an occasional trading 
ship, were laid the foundations of civilized life on Long 

The people of a later generation can only with the 
greatest difficulty picture the world that surrounded these 
little isolated groups of pioneers. The village herdsman 
in caring for the animals of the community had to contend 
with predatory wildcats and wolves. 3 More important 
than the forest animals, however, were the Indians. Thir- 
teen tribes living on Long Island kept the possibility of 
an Indian war always before the eyes of the householder. 
As the village groups of the white men grew larger and 

by the first settlers of East Hampton. Common ownership by the de- 
scendants of the first proprietors continued until 1879, one of the most 
remarkable cases in American land records. Jameson, Magazine of American 
History, IX, 225-239. 

i N. Y. Col. Docts., I, 368. 

2 For typical cases, see Huntington Records, I, 110; East Hampton 
Records, IV, 17-27, 64-81, 96-110. 

3 Hempstead Records, I, 88; N. Y. Col. Docts., VI, 161. 


more numerous, the competition of life between the two 
races became more keen. The hamlets with their pali- 
sades developed into military outposts. In 1643, the storm 
broke over the Dutch settlements on the western end of 
the Island. "Coming next to Long Island: It also is 
stripped of people and cattle, except a few insignificant 
places over against the main, which are about to be aban- 
doned. The English who have settled among us have not 
escaped. They too except at one place are all murdered 
and burnt. Staten Island ... is unattacked as yet but 
stands hourly expecting an assault. ' n It was with reason, 
therefore, that all trees were felled within gunshot range 
of the palisades, and that every male between sixteen and 
sixty years of age was required to furnish himself with a 
gun and sword, a pound of powder, several "fathom of 
match, ' ' and a supply of flints and bullets. Training days 
were common. East Hampton was not many years old 
when the actions of the Indians roused among the vil- 
lagers the suspicion that the Dutch, jealous of English 
encroachments, were stirring up the red-skins. The town 
meeting promptly decreed that no Indian was to set foot 
within the village gates. Should one approach in the 
darkness, the watch was ordered to shoot the interloper 
if he did not halt on the third "stand." 2 In 1657, the 
general court of Connecticut, sent the doughty Captain 
John Mason with nineteen men to the outlying settlement 
of Southampton "to consider of all matters and things 
whatsoever, that may appear necessary to be attended 
to" with regard to "several insolent injuries and in- 
sufferable outrages committed ... by some Indians of 
Long Island. ' ' 3 It was in the face of such a menace, when 

i N. Y. Col. Docts., I, 190. 

2 East Hampton Records, I, 31. 

3 Quoted from the records of a general court sitting at Hartford, May 15, 
1657, by B. F. Thompson, History of Long Island (third ed.), II, 153-154. 


the snapping of a twig was an ominous sign, that the 
small, ill-equipped pioneer groups commenced and car- 
ried on their battle to subdue the wilderness. 

Pressing as was the problem of defense, that of sub- 
sistence was greater. In view of this fact it is not without 
significance, that most of the pioneer villages were built 
within sound of the surf. Not one of these early towns 
was many miles inland. The ocean, aggressively grind- 
ing back the cliffs of the north shore and the beaches of 
the Montauk peninsula, held the hamlets of the pioneers 
close to the sand, not simply because the sea was the only 
means of communication with the outer world, but because 
it was rich in useful products. Clams abounded and eels 
were found in the shallow waters of the creeks and 
marshes. People of the west end gathered oysters in the 
sheltered coves of the southern beaches. The great 
schools of menhaden which from time to time filled the 
bays and harbors of the whole region furnished bait for 
the fishing farther out. Off Sandy Hook and off Montauk 
were cod banks. There were times in the latter half of 
the seventeenth century when "most of the vessells" to 
and from Virginia paused to "take good quantityes . . . 
of excellent good Codd" not many leagues south of Rock- 
away. Jealously guarded from poaching strangers were 
all these sources of food supply. Making laws to govern 
the taking of the products of the creeks and bays gave 
zest to many a town meeting. 

It was at the eastern end of the Island, however, that 
the pull of the sea was strongest. In the heavy surf off 
the Hamptons many an unwary whale was stranded. 
Almost with their arrival the settlers divided the beach 
into sections and designated men in each to cut up the 
whales that were washed in. Not long, however, did these 
people depend on such accidents. Before many years 
they were establishing on the sand dunes lookouts who 


scanned the sea for the familiar black hulk and geyser-like 
spouting. Whenever one of these denizens of the deep 
nosed his way in sufficiently close to shore, the alarm was 
sounded. From wherever they might be the people of the 
villages came scurrying to the beach, where they put off 
in small boats to capture the quarry and bring it in. The 
whale oil from the catches passed for currency through- 
out the Island and in the trade with Boston. 1 

Important as were the products of the sea, however, 
the time had not yet come when permanent establish- 
ments could be founded on them alone. The sea could not 
carry the settlers beyond the collection stage and the 
hunting stage in the development of their civilization. 
The hazards were too great. If the whites were to sur- 
pass their red-skinned competitors, they must advance to 
the agricultural stage and found their homes on cleared 
fields and cultivated soil. 

The first adventurous men who built their villages on 
Long Island bays and beaches were, of necessity, men of 
many occupations — soldiers, hunters, fishermen, oyster- 
men, whalers, and, with all the rest, farmers. There was 
little division of labor. Every family tried to get a living 
by taking advantage of all the opportunities that offered. 
The main dependence of these people, however, was on 
their crops and their animals. The civilization of Long 
Island, as of all the English settlements in North Amer- 
ica, was founded on agriculture. Before farming could 
begin the forest must be invaded. 

It is hard to realize what the subduing of the woods 
meant to a little group of these pioneers. They had none 
of the saws, the stump pullers, and the dynamite of our 
day. Their weapons were only two, the axe and the grub- 
bing hook. Besides these they made use, as the Indians 

i For more complete accounts of fishing in colonial times, see chapters 
V, VI, VII, and IX. 


did, of fire. It was the custom of the villagers every 
spring to burn over the woods in the immediate locality. 
The matter would be taken up in the town meeting, a day 
would be set, and two or three men named to have charge 
of the work. Every citizen was obliged, under penalty of 
fine, to turn out and assist. 1 With the "firing" of the 
woods the activities of the group, as such, ceased. The 
remainder of the task of clearing away the trees and 
underbrush from his fields was the problem of the indi- 
vidual landholder. It was slow and tedious work. "The 
trees are usually felled from the stump, cut up and burnt 
in the fields, except such as are suitable for buildings, for 
pallissades, posts and rails. ... In most lands is found 
a certain root called Red Wortel, which must before 
ploughing be extirpated with a hoe, expressly made for 
that purpose. This being done in the winter, some plough 
right around the stumps, should time or circumstance not 
allow them to be removed. . . . The farmer having thus 
begun must endeavor every year to clear as much new 
land as he possibly can. . . . " 2 This great outlay of time 
and labor was the price the pioneer paid for his farm. 

The "farm management" of these early settlers on the 
shores of Long Island was an ingenious adaptation to the 
exigencies of their situation. They needed capital, 
houses, barns, cleared land, domestic animals, and tools, — 
in short, energy stored up against the struggle for exist- 
ence. To acquire a sufficient amount of this capital to 
make their little establishments permanent was the work 
of years, during which the rough tables of the small 
cabins must be supplied with provisions. Some of the 
food came from the creeks, the bays, and the sea, but this 
supply was not assured. Men with families dependent 

i East Hampton Records, I, 17; Huntington Eecords, I, 111-112; Smith- 
town Records, p. 94. 

2 N. Y. Col. Docts., I, 367. 


upon them found it necessary to utilize the scanty re- 
sources of the very woods they were destroying. They 
became herdsmen as well as farmers. Their animals 
foraged among the trees under the watchful eye of the 
village i l cow keeper. ' ' From these herds and flocks the 
frontier families obtained materials for their simple 
clothing and food for their tables. From Gravesend to 
Southold herds of cattle could everywhere be found. 1 
The Hempstead Plains, a little natural prairie in the 
midst of the forest, were rich in them. The blunt end of 
the Montauk peninsula, fenced in by the surf, was covered 
with the animals of the East Hampton villagers. Besides 
cattle, small flocks of sheep, raised for their wool, could 
be seen throughout the Island, pasturing on the "com- 
mons" or foraging in the woods. In the eastern settle- 
ments, goats grazed with the sheep. 2 These two, however, 
both ill fitted to fight the necessary battle for existence 
against the wolves and the wildcats, never became very 
plentiful. The same was not true of the swine, slab-sided, 
long-legged, fleiet, razorbacks. These animals, living on 
the nuts under the trees, were a factor of the greatest 
importance in the primitive economy of the pioneer 
farmer. "The hogs, after having picked up their food 
for months in the woods, are crammed with corn in the 
fall ; when fat they are killed and furnish a very hard and 
clean pork ; a good article for the husbandman who grad- 
ually and in time begins to purchase horses and cows with 
the produce of his grain and the increase of his hogs, and 
instead of a cellar as aforesaid, builds good houses and 
barns. ' ,3 

i#. Y. Col. Docts., I, 285; II, 433; East Hampton Becords, I, 23, 28; 
Jamaica Becords, I, 6, 8. 

2 East Hampton Becords, I, 16, 32, 47; Huntington Becords, II, 411, 515; 
Hempstead Becords, I, 100. 

3 N. Y. Col. Docts., I, 368; Hempstead Becords, I, 16, 91, 123; Smithtown 
Becords, p. 99. 


At the same time that his animals were growing more 
plentiful with little effort to himself, the settler's slowly 
broadening fields were planted to crops. Corn, rye, and 
wheat seem to have been the earliest grains. Soon flax 
was added, together with barley, buckwheat, oats, and, in 
a few places, tobacco. In the fertile fields of the western 
settlements gardens flourished. Potatoes and water- 
melons "with all sorts of pot-herbs, principally parsnips, 
carrots and cabbage ' ' brought ' * plenty into the husband- 
man 's dwelling." 1 

The "farm management, ' ' therefore, of the pioneer 
was, in its general outlines, very simple. Isolated from 
practically all markets, he had to support his family with 
very little help from outside. He needed food, clothing, 
and capital. To gain these he carefully balanced two 
complementary types of industry, the raising of animals 
and the tilling of the soil. He united on one farm the 
pastoral and the agricultural stages of the arts. His 
acres not only supplied the needs of his household but 
furnished him with most of the articles of the currency 
of the region — beef, pork, wheat, rye, and whale oil. 2 
Aided by his wife and his boys and girls, the adventurer 
who had perhaps started life in a cellar, with nothing save 
a few tools and animals, could by dint of hard work and 
careful planning lay the foundations for an establishment 
both self-sufficient and permanent. 3 

In the dual economy of the early pioneer it was inevi- 
table that the ox should play a leading part. Like the 

i N. Y. Col. Docts., I, 267, 368 ; VI, 122-123 ; Jasper Danckaerts, Journal 
(1679-80), pp. 169, 230; William Smith, History of New York (1756), I, 

2 Huntington Becords, I, 161, 239. 

s Large families were of great assistance in solving the problem of labor. 
Governor Dongan reported: "In this country there is a Woman yet alive 
from whose loins there are upwards of three hundred and sixty persons now 
living." N. Y. Col Docts., Ill, 391. 


rest of the animals, the tough and hardy ox could forage 
for its living. Like the flocks of sheep and droves of 
swine, it was valuable at any time as a food product. The 
ox fitted perfectly into the animal husbandry of the 
pioneer herdsman. At the same time there could be no 
tilling of the soil and raising of crops without this same 
slow and powerful beast to draw the plough and cart. 
The animal had, therefore, a double value, one for each 
half of the dual economy which characterized the agricul- 
ture of the early settlements. The horse could be of 
service to but one of these. It was too specialized for the 
agricultural development of the day. Until the introduc- 
tion of new conditions should give this fleeter and more 
intelligent animal an opportunity to show its superiority, 
the ox was to remain the most important source of power 
for the farmers of America. 

With the passing of the seventeenth century, the period 
of the primitive struggle for existence in a new and un- 
touched environment began to come to an end. The tiny 
villages of the settlers increased in size and, at the 
western end of the Island near the infant city of New 
York, new ones were built farther and farther from the 
shore. Trading ships moored at the crude docks were no 
longer a rarity. They came to the fiords of the north 
shore and the sheltered coves of the south, sometimes for 
legitimate trade but often to flout the navigation acts of 
England and smuggle illegal stores into the province of 
New York. The contact with the outer world caused a 
new life to pulse in the village settlements. In those com- 
munities where every man had been a jack-of-all-trades a 
division of labor appeared. Some put to sea as sailors 
or whalers. In the villages weavers, hatters, tailors, brick- 
makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, cord wainers, and 
coopers reflected the changing life. Merchants and " tap- 
sters' ' bespoke the origin of commercial enterprise and 


doctors marked an improvement in the standard of liv- 
ing. 1 It was during this period that the farmer, dependent 
solely on the land for his support, came into being. Grist- 
mills, driven by wind and tide and small streams, relieved 
him of much labor and enabled him to handle larger 
crops. 2 The opening of markets caused the breakdown of 
self-sufficient agriculture. In the eighteenth century 
wheat from Long Island poured into New York to be 
shipped to the sugar-producing islands of the West 

With the appearance of the new division of labor and 
the disappearance of the primitive struggle for existence, 
the unfolding life of the people of Long Island became 
more and more complex. To understand the evolution 
that followed, it is necessary to separate the various 
strands that are woven together to make the whole fabric. 
Only in the separate stories of the farmers, the whalers, 
the oystermen, and the rest are to be found the elements 
that make up the whole. 

i Jamaica Eecords, II, 74; Huntington Records, I, 268, 393; II, 448; 
H. P. Hedges, History of East Hampton, p. 79. 

2 Southold Eecords, I, 212; Huntington Eecords, I, 98; II, 14, 87, 100. 


Physiogkaphy, climate, and location have all combined to 
make Long Island a farming country. The hills of glacial 
moraine and much of the ontwash plains, covered for 
centuries with forest mould, offer a rich soil to the hus- 
bandman. A mild, maritime climate brings the spring 
earlier and holds the autumn later than in the interior. 
The great city at the entrance to the Hudson-Mohawk 
gateway offers a market without equal in America. Natu- 
ral and societal forces, therefore, have made agriculture 
the basis for Long Island's civilization. In spite of the 
fact that the sea has pushed its influence to every cross- 
roads, it has had less influence than the great hinterland 
in controlling the development of Long Island farming. 
The story of the farmer on this offshore island is closely 
bound up with that of the mainland, for the evolution of 
agriculture on the larger land-mass has dominated that 
on the smaller. Yet, with all this domination, Long 
Island has never lost its individuality. Its own develop- 
ment has never been lost in that of the whole. 

The close of the long war of the Revolution ushered in 
a new era for American farming. Forces which had been 
occupied solely in the winning of the conflict were now 
freed to assist in the task of creating a nation out of the 
fragments that the war had left. Among the men who, in 
the critical years after the war, became prominent in the 
upbuilding of the political and economic life of America, 
was a small group who were convinced that "it is in a 


spirited and flourishing husbandry that the soundest 
health and comfort of nations is to be found.' ' In days 
when more than three-quarters of the American people 
were farmers, and yet when American agriculture was so 
bad as to be the subject of the sharpest criticisms from 
practically all observers, this group of men believed that 
national and individual greatness had its best foundation 
on the soil. t i Those who seek for personal distinction in 
our government, and those who from disinterested and 
virtuous inclinations, perform duties the most honorable 
to themselves, and beneficial to society, will find the most 
solid popularity and durable fame in measures promotive 
of the interests of agriculturists ; who compose the great 
body of the people. ' n It was this pioneer group of agri- 
cultural thinkers who were destined to set in motion an 
evolution of the greatest importance. Yet, if it had been 
suggested to any small farmer, following his plough over 
his Long Island farm, that he was witnessing the begin- 
ning of a great agrarian awakening, he would have smiled 
and urged on his dawdling oxen. 

At the close of the eighteenth century, the hinterland of 
Long Island was a long, narrow strip of settled country, 
reaching roughly from the Potomac to New England. Its 
width was little greater than the distance from the sea to 
the Appalachian barrier. A traveler among the people of 
this region would have noticed that practically all were 
farmers, and that the important unit in the economic life 
of this region was the little rural hamlet of perhaps a few 
hundred inhabitants. As he traveled from place to place 
over unimproved roads and forest trails, he would have 
observed that the farms of this hinterland were divisible 
roughly into three types, each widely differentiated from 
the other, and only when he had seen and studied these 
types, would he have been able to understand the signifi- 

i Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, Memoirs, I, preface. 


cance of the life and development in the small farming 
villages that dotted the Long Island shore. 

At the western border of the hinterland was the fron- 
tiersman, chopping his way into the forest beyond the 
Appalachians. Rough, weather-beaten, and independent, 
he was little different from his forerunner who, a century 
and a half before, had attacked the forests on the shores 
of Massachusetts Bay or Peconic Bay. He had discarded 
the awkward matchlock for the more modern flintlock but, 
otherwise, his tools and methods and problems were prac- 
tically the same as those of the first settlers. His was the 
same isolated struggle for existence in an untouched 
environment. He girdled his trees and destroyed his 
timber lavishly. He "stubbed in" his crops, with no 
thought of rotation, until virgin soil became so exhausted 
that it would produce little but sorrel. Year after year 
the roads and the trails brought to his neighborhood a 
flood of new people, the ambitious and the luckless, the 
shiftless and the thrifty, from the older regions. With 
them came the foreigner. On the frontier mingled the 
American and the European, the reputable and the dis- 
reputable, the intelligent and the ignorant, a mixture of 
discordant elements bound together by the ties of a com- 
mon lot and the frontier dreams of the future greatness 
of their section. 1 

As a prairie fire works its way across the plains and 
leaves behind a wake of charred and blackened stubble, 
so the frontier, pushing its eventful life steadily west- 
ward, left behind the dull listlessness and the impover- 
ished fields of the back country. It was on the farms of 
this back country, covering county after county in the 

i For contemporary accounts of the farming methods on the frontier see : 
J. B. Bordley, Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs (1799), 
pp. 448-449; The Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, Memoirs, 
I, preface. 


interior of Pennsylvania, New York, and New England, 
that American farming could be seen at its worst. Long 
miles of almost impassable roads and trails lay between 
these farms, exhausted by years of ignorant or heedless 
cultivation, and the markets of the coast cities. Only the 
lightest products, of which whiskey was the most common, 
could cover the journey with profit. There was but slight 
incentive to improve the worn soil, when any material 
increase in crops, beyond what the farmer and his family 
could consume, must rot in his barn for want of a pur- 
chaser. From the enervating stagnation of these inland 
communities many men, plunged into debt, saw but slight 
prospect of extricating themselves. To such people "stay 
laws," to ward off for a time the demands of creditors, 
or a cheap paper currency, which would enable them to 
return to the money lender less value than they had 
received, offered the easiest ways out of the dilemma. 
Practically the only alternative was emigration to the 
frontier. It may be that the group of leaders near the 
coast who were initiating the science of agriculture were 
stimulated in their efforts partly by a fear of what this 
numerous debtor element might do. If this be true, the 
attempt was ill-advised. On the scrubby, badly managed, 
and practically self-sufficient farms of the back country 
there could be no progress until canals or improved roads 
brought them within the invigorating influence of a 
market. 1 

Long Island, at the end of the eighteenth century, was 
not a part of the back country. Its fields and meadows 
made up an important portion of that narrow zone within 
reach of markets which stretched, with few interruptions, 

i The best analysis of the life and the agriculture of the back country is 
to be found in P. W. Bidwell, "Rural Economy in New England at the 
Beginning of the Nineteenth Century/' Transactions of the Connecticut 
Academy of Arts and Sciences, XX, 241-399. 


along the shore of the sea and drove reentrant angles 
inland along the banks of navigable rivers. The region 
was as wide as the limit allowed for the hauling of miscel- 
laneous farm products by ox-drawn or horse-drawn vehi- 
cles. For the people of this zone the ocean was the great 
highway. To and from New York, along the shores of 
Long Island, plied fleets of sturdy little sailing vessels, 
which put into the harbors and bays and moored at the 
docks of the shore villages or, as often, at the i ' landings ' ' 
on creeks and coves that lay between. The docks and the 
1 l landings ' ' were the centres to which the farmers hauled 
their produce. Here their loads were piled aboard the 
small crafts to be taken to New York and sometimes to 
Boston. At the end of the eighteenth century, therefore, 
the sea which had dominated the life of the early Long 
Island settlements was still a controlling factor and, 
throughout the greater part of the region, profoundly 
influenced the basic industry of the people. 1 

Though the countryside of Long Island had changed 
with the passing years since pioneer times, its farming 
methods had altered but little. If one could have visited 
the little hamlets of Hempstead, Huntington, Southold, 
or the rest, at the end of the eighteenth century, he would 
have found establishments quite typical of the Atlantic 
seaboard. The farms, one hundred or one hundred and 
fifty acres in size, were fenced with rails or posts. There 
were no stone walls, as in New England, but in some 
places where timber was scarce, could be seen the hedges 
of old England. Over the pastures grazed herds of flat- 
sided, mongrel cows, more distinguished for their hardi- 
ness than for their beef or dairy products. But the 
farmers fattened them and were satisfied. To these 
animals the ' 1 rat tailed ' ' sheep of colonial lineage formed 
fitting companions. The Hempstead Plains, the Shinne- 

i For a more complete account of this sea trade, see chapters X and XI. 


cock Hills, and the blunt end of the peninsula of Montauk 
furnished ranges of exceptional value. Eastern Long 
Island was, at that time, probably better stocked with 
cattle and sheep than any of the neighboring farming 
country in either New York or New England. Growing 
on the fields of the farms could be found such staple crops 
as wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, flax, and the common 
grass which was cut for hay. The yields were not large, 
because an impoverished soil, inherited from colonial 
times, was scratched with shallow and unlevel furrows 
and constantly drained by an exploitative crop rotation. 
Moreover, the Hessian fly ravaged widely in the wheat 
fields. When this crop failed, the farmers in desperation 
began putting a little manure or some menhaden fish on 
their wheat ground, but that was, in general, the extent 
of fertilization. 

The tools of the Long Islander of those days, often 
clumsy and ill-contrived, were the same that Englishmen 
had used from the Middle Ages. He could have carried 
practically all of them on his back save the spike-toothed 
harrow, the awkward cart, and the Brobdingnagian 
wooden plough. Most of the grain was cut with the 
sickle, of long and honorable history, and all was threshed 
on the threshing floor with the flail, or beaten out by the 
hoofs of horses and oxen. The threshed grain was hauled 
to the tide mill or to one of the picturesque, great-armed 
windmills that dotted the eastern end of the Island. The 
"grist" which jolted homeward was the product of the 
summer's labor transformed into provisions for the bleak 
months of winter. The farm still produced most of the 
things that the farmer's family needed — food, fuel, and 
clothing. Some of his grain and animals, however, he 
took to the nearest "landing" and shipped to market. 
The income, thus derived, brought a meagre prosperity, 
which neither the frontier nor the back country knew. 


The simplicity and the quiet of these Long Island farming 
communities, most of them sequestered from the more 
active world, tended to make these people more attentive 
to what was their own and gave their customs, especially 
those which had come down from their ancestors, a com- 
manding influence on their conduct. Among such people 
the "new f angled" notions of scientific agriculture could 
meet with only a slow and unwilling acceptance. 1 

The time for a step forward, however, was almost at 
hand. A type of farming, developed to meet the primitive 
needs of the pioneers, was proving ill-adjusted to the new 
environment of cities and markets. As a result of the 
discomforts of this maladaptation came the first steps of 
progress. It was not, however, the man who held his own 
plough to the furrow who made the earliest attempts 
toward the improvement of agriculture, for the small 
farmer who, in the fall of the year, drove his * ? grist ' ' to 
the neighboring windmill, had neither the leisure nor the 
capital for study and experimentation. Moreover, his 
judgments were narrowed and warped by superstitions, 
handed down from father to son for generations. If the 
man of the soil was unable to originate new methods, 
neither had the state yet been brought to see the necessity 
for supporting agricultural experimentation. There were 
no nonproducing agriculturists, maintained at public ex- 
pense, such as are now found in the agricultural college 
or the department of agriculture. Agricultural science, 
therefore, could only begin under the leadership of men 
who had both capital and leisure. Such men must have a 
knowledge of farming at home and abroad and time 

i New York Society for the Promotion of Arts, Agriculture, and Manu- 
factures, Transactions (1795), I, 44, 136, 238, 232-233, 240; Bordley, pp. 37, 
67, 140-141, 200-203, 335-336; Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agricul- 
ture, Memoirs, I, preface; Spafford, Gazatteer of the State of New Yorh 
(1813), pp. 138, 187, 195. (The New York Agricultural Society will here- 
after be referred to as Transactions.) 


enough for study. They were not plentiful in the new 

Scattered here and there throughout the farming coun- 
try were to be found, at the close of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, the homes of the gentlemen-farmers, the American 
Sir Eoger de Coverleys. Among them were the planter 
of the South, the manorial lord, descended from the old 
Dutch patroons of the Hudson Valley, and the man of 
commercial or professional prominence in the larger 
towns who signalized his success by the acquisition of an 
estate. They formed a group of high-spirited agrarian 
aristocrats, many of whom were conspicuous in the found- 
ing of the new nation, and they gave a prestige to farm- 
ing and a prominence to agricultural problems scarcely 
rivaled at any later time. Crops, as well as politics, were 
discussed in the gossip of the best circles. America was 
distinctly a farmer nation. Here and there, in this aris- 
tocracy stood out a man, so interested in his calling as to 
be willing to devote much of his time and energy to the 
improving of his own fields and the spreading of the gos- 
pel of better farming. These men made up the group that 
laid the foundations of agricultural science in America. 

The Rev. Jared Eliot, a member of the New England 
theocracy, was the voice crying in the wilderness prepar- 
ing the way for the movement to come. His Essays on 
Field Husbandry in New England, first written in 1749 
and published in collected form in 1760, made up the first 
important agricultural treatise to appear in the new 
country. The pioneers who followed Eliot, after the close 
of the American Revolution, formed a group of remark- 
able men. General Washington, owner of ten thousand 
acres on the Potomac, was the first farmer of his day. 
The friend and correspondent of many of the agricultural 
leaders and the originator of many improvements on his 
own acres, he would probably have been the foremost 


figure in the new movement had his countrymen per- 
mitted. As it was, the great influence of his name sup- 
ported and aided the work of others. Neighbor to Wash- 
ington on the other bank of the Potomac was John B. 
Bordley, living at Wye, a lawyer-planter, and a former 
judge of the provincial admiralty court. Familiar with 
the work of the leaders of agricultural thought in Eng- 
land, he tried to bring their conclusions to the attention of 
Americans. After editing Forsythe on Fruit Trees and 
writing a number of special studies, he published one of 
the most complete and sound agricultural treatises thus 
far issued, Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural 
Affairs. In 1794, together with Eichard Peters of Phila- 
delphia, he was engaged in an unsuccessful attempt to 
induce the state of Pennsylvania to organize a state agri- 
cultural society. Peters, the other man interested in the 
effort, a leader of the Philadelphia bar and a United 
States circuit judge, was long a close friend and corre- 
spondent of General Washington. For years he was 
president of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting 
Agriculture. His essays, more than a hundred in number, 
covering practically every phase of agricultural research, 
published in the Memoirs of that society, form the great 
contribution made by that organization to the advance of 
agricultural knowledge. 

It was but natural that Long Island, one of the most 
important farming sections of the day, should furnish a 
member to this group of agrarian leaders. Ezra L 'Hom- 
medieu was a New York lawyer and a Long Island farmer. 
During the Bevolution he represented his state in the 
Continental Congress. He was one of the two leaders in 
the New York agricultural society and published in its 
Transactions a large number of able papers setting forth 
the results of his investigations and experiments. To the 
north of Long Island, in New England, Colonel David 


Humphries, at one time ambassador to Spain, rose to 
agricultural prominence for his flock of merino sheep, the 
nucleus of which he obtained from the Iberian Peninsula 
during the Napoleonic wars. Greatest of the group, how- 
ever, and dean of the new school of agricultural thought, 
was Chancellor Robert Livingston of the Hudson Valley. 
Jurist, statesman, and ambassador, Livingston seems to 
have found his greatest interest in farming. He was the 
dominant figure in the New York Society for the Promo- 
tion of Arts, Agriculture, and Manufactures. On his 
great farm were carried on all manner of experiments. 
His barns sheltered the best animals that he could obtain. 
In his office were letters and literature relating to almost 
every phase of agriculture. His pen was constantly being 
called upon to turn out many papers and treatises setting 
forth his theories, experiments, and conclusions. Living- 
ston, like every one of his colleagues, was a man of dis- 
tinction in a field other than farming. Although each did 
much in other lines of activity, it was their joint efforts 
that started one of the most important movements in 
American history. They were not alone. Other men 
worked with them. They were, however, the leaders, the 
pioneers who blazed the trail to better things. 

The experience of these men was not limited to the hap- 
penings of their local parishes. They approached their 
task with a broad vision. All were familiar with the work 
of the English leaders, Tull, Bakewell, Townshend, and 
Arthur Young. Some of them had connections and corre- 
spondents in England. They drew their inspiration from 
the profound agricultural revolution that was bringing 
such changes to the farms of their late enemies. This 
British revolution was of the greatest importance in 
starting the new era in America. 1 

i Bordley, pp. 386, 567; Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 
Memoirs, I, preface. 


The ambitious projects of the American pioneers were 
as wide as agriculture itself. The small farmer sowed his 
cereals year after year with no idea that there were any 
other crops worth raising. Livingston and the others 
made an attempt to bring to the western shore of the 
Atlantic the root crops, beets and turnips, that were in 
vogue in England, and thus add a new element to the 
American rotation. Moreover, Livingston coveted the 
fame of introducing into the young nation lucern, later 
famous as alfalfa. He lived to see his effort crowned with 
a mild success. The American leaders strove to interest 
the small farmers in timothy and, particularly, in the 
"ameliorating" clover grasses that created " artificial ' ' 
meadows to take the place of the scrubby lots of common 
grass. New plants, however, were not all. This first 
school of experimenters began the attempt, which has 
continued for more than a century, to raise the standards 
of American livestock. The mongrel cattle and the razor- 
backed swine came up for consideration. New breeds, 
usually of large cattle, began to be introduced from 
Europe. Interest centred, however, in sheep. The Na- 
poleonic wars that gradually cut off America from Euro- 
pean wool and cloth also broke up the Spanish cabanas. 
Both Livingston and Humphries brought Spanish me- 
rinos to their farms and started flocks of blooded sheep. 
Peters built up his flock in part from Barbary mountain 
stock. Others followed their example. High wool prices 
gave sheep-raising an importance, that diffused the new 
blood widely through the old "rat tailed' ' flocks. The 
growing of wool and the weaving of woolen cloth became 
permanent industries in America, and Livingston and 
Humphries were recognized as the two leading experts 
on American sheep culture. 

The advocates of the new agriculture, however, were 
not content merely with the introduction of new crops and 


animals. They struck at the root of the evil, the dissipa- 
tion of soil fertility. They knew practically nothing of 
soil chemistry. Their conclusions were all empirical. On 
this foundation, however, they built solidly. An effort 
was made to do away with the soil scratching of the ordi- 
nary farmer. ' ' Trench ploughing, ' ' with furrows at least 
ten inches deep, was experimented with and encouraged. 
Although the concept of humus had not been developed, 
the value of manure fertilizer was recognized. The work 
of L'Hommedieu and Bordley on the conservation and 
use of this product of the barnyard has been superseded 
by later men in but few particulars. L'Hommedieu, on 
account of the peculiarities of his Long Island neighbor- 
hood, went further. He gathered and published a con- 
siderable body of information relative to the use of men- 
haden fish for fertilizing purposes. For a number of 
years the farmers of the coast region had been applying 
gypsum or "land plaster' ' to their fields. Peters and 
Livingston independently made extensive studies of this 
calcareous fertilizer and both published conclusions 
favorable to its use. It was Bordley, however, more than 
any other, who went to the heart of the matter. In un- 
softened language he condemned the usual three field 
rotation of "maize, wheat or rye, and spontaneous rub- 
bish pasture' ' or the four field type of "maize, naked 
fallow, wheat, and the like mean pasture. ' ' He demanded 
that farmers adopt a six or seven year rotation and that 
they build it around the legumen clover. Neither Bordley 
nor any of his colleagues knew that the legumens added 
nitrogen to the soil. They only knew that clover and 
lucern left the land better for having been raised. ' ' The 
man who manures the whole of his arable fields ' ' and who 
does not shy at clover on account of the cost of the seed 
and the labor of raising it "will accomplish a great ob- 
ject, tending highly to his domestic comfort, his reputa- 


tion, and his independency of creditors." No one, even 
in these days of the high development of the science of 
agriculture, can turn the yellow pages of the publications 
of these pioneer agriculturists without being struck by 
the clearness of their perception of the needs of the times 
and the sanity of the remedies they proposed. Their 
vision was broad and their purpose above reproach. "Let 
us cultivate the ground, that the poor, as well as the rich, 
may be filled; and happiness and peace be established 
throughout our borders. ' n 

These pioneer experimenters labored under no illusions 
as to the attitude of the common farmer toward their 
work. They were of the cynical opinion that men of this 
class were "much more attached to their old customs 
than the people of other professions." The fog of super- 
stition, the pride which prevented a man from admitting 
that other methods were better than his own, and the ' ' de- 
grading and shameful" excess of the crossroads tavern 
were all recognized as obstacles in the way of improve- 
ment. Nevertheless, they set themselves to the task of 
combating these things. They wrote books. They tried 
to interest their neighbors in the experiments on their 
farms. They organized societies, not in the country 
where the time for them had not yet come, but in cities, 
anxious to further their own interests by bettering the 
farming in their immediate environs. These societies 
published articles in the press and, from time to time, 
issued collections of theoretical and practical papers. 
They also offered premiums for a wide range of agricul- 
tural improvements. The leavening of the mass, however, 
was slow. The press did not reach all men and those 
interested in the formal papers of the Transactions must 
have been few. The bounties of the city societies seem 
frequently to have been ignored by the sturdy yeomen of 

i Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, Memoirs, I, title-page. 


the small farms, perhaps too often filled with the leveling 
doctrines of an Anti-federalist democracy, and in at least 
one organization they accumulated, unclaimed, in the 
treasury year after year. 1 Yet the movement did not fail. 
When its leaders had finished their work, new and un- 
familiar crops were growing on many fields and better 
animals grazing on better pastures. To many men had 
come the vision of the new farming. Perhaps most im- 
portant of all, however, there had been created a consider- 
able body of agricultural literature, the first that America 
had known. Though obscured for a while by the stirring 
changes of the early years of the nineteenth century this 
literature was ultimately to become the foundation for 
the new science of American farming. 

The real reason, however, why so many of the seeds of 
agricultural reform fell on sterile ground was the influ- 
ence of the West. During the opening years of the nine- 
teenth century, the farmers of Long Island saw the trickle 
of emigrants across the Appalachian barrier increase to 
a flood. The siren-call of the West lengthened, year after 
year, the caravans of Conestoga wagons that jolted over 
the mountain roads. Many families from the shore vil- 
lages of Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay were among 
them. Sales of land in the public domain, which had 
averaged less than a hundred thousand acres a year from 
the close of the Revolution to 1800, leaped to eighteen 
million acres in the next two decades and aggregated 
seventy-six million in the two that followed, from 1820 to 
1840. Why waste time and energy improving the worn- 
out fields of the East when an untouched empire lay be- 
yond the mountains ! Those who stayed at home on Long 
Island saw a new section come rapidly into being with its 

i Elkanah Watson, History of the Else, Progress and Existing Condition 
of the Western Canals in the State of New York together with Bise, Progress, 
and Existing State of Modern Agricultural Societies, p. 132. 


own individuality, its own problems, and its own leaders. 
They began to hear the echoes of a new issue that had 
come out of the West. Henry Clay, of Kentucky, was 
demanding at Washington that internal improvements be 
built to connect the virgin fields beyond the mountains 
with the growing markets of the seaboard. They saw 
New York City, so long largely dependent on their farms 
for its food and forage, roused to competition with Phila- 
delphia and Baltimore, and reaching out through the Erie 
Canal and a network of turnpike roads to tap the reser- 
voirs of the valleys of the Genesee and the Ohio. In the 
effort to get to the West the old "back country' ' was 
crossed and its isolation broken. Counties, that had long 
been remote and stagnant, were stirred with a new life 
and became active competitors with the older regions for 
the eastern markets. Swiftly and surely, the farmers of 
Long Island saw their position of vantage disappear. 
What had once been one of the most important producing 
regions of the coast sank into relative insignificance. The 
hinterland had suddenly become a giant, which through 
ruthless competition threatened the very foundations of 
their institutions. 


"The bane of this country, Squire, and, indeed, of all 
America," remarked an eastern farmer in the first half 
of the nineteenth century, "is havin' too much land; they 
run over more ground than they can cultivate and crop 
the land so severely that they run it out." When land 
was plenty and labor scarce, production per man rather 
than production per acre was, of necessity, the goal of 
the American farmer. "That's the reason you hear of 
folks clearin' land, makin' a farm and sellin' off again 
and goin' further into the bush." That was also why 
people were more interested in Governor Clinton's grand 
canal than in Chancellor Livingston's new farming. In- 
ternal improvements, to be sure, brought the competition 
of the West to the doors of the East, but they also offered 
the eastern farmer an opportunity to abandon a losing 
venture and to try his luck in the country of romance 
beyond the mountains. This was the situation that the 
stay-at-home farmer on Long Island faced, as the hinter- 
land grew in size and power. His problem was to adapt 
his farming to a constantly changing environment. 

It was the necessity, therefore, of meeting the threat- 
ened competition of the hinterland that brought home to 
the men of the coast a realization of the value of the work 
of the early agricultural experimenters. Competition 
compelled better husbandry. There was a touch of irony 
in the fact that Elkanah Watson, the pioneer promoter 
of the Erie Canal project, was instrumental, perhaps 


more than any other, in bringing the new farming to the 
old farmer. Watson was not a member of the early 
school of theoretical agriculturists ; he was its most dis- 
tinguished pupil. As a business man he had traveled 
along the Atlantic seaboard and in Europe. Then he came 
under the influence of Livingston and became the friend 
of Humphries. In 1807, he gave up commerce and began 
farming at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. During the next 
four years he made his great contribution to the develop- 
ment of agriculture. By 1811, he had completed the 
organization of the Berkshire Agricultural Society. 
Watson was an able student of human nature and he used 
his best skill in forming a society that would appeal 
strongly to the small farmer of the early nineteenth cen- 
tury. He was convinced that success could only be 
achieved if the wives, as well as their lords and masters, 
became participators in the enterprise. The diplomacy 
that he and others used to win over these country women, 
unaccustomed to activities outside their own homes and 
fearful of arousing comment by appearing in public, is an 
interesting example of the different standards of this 
earlier generation. The purpose of the organization was 
to hold every year an exhibition of the best work and the 
best products of the locality. Prizes were awarded for 
preeminence in farms, animals, and crops, and the butter, 
cheese, and cloth made in the home. At the end of the 
exhibition came the general assembly, usually in the 
largest local church. It was here, amid impressive cere- 
mony, that the honors were distributed, each prize accom- 
panied by a certificate of distinction that, when framed, 
became a valued decoration in the rural household. 1 

The Berkshire organization had the good fortune to 
appear when the times were ripe for it. When Watson 
introduced it into one or two communities in eastern New 

i Elkanah Watson, pp. 114-132. 


York, it caught the popular fancy and began spreading 
rapidly from its own momentum. In 1817, it came to 
Long Island. 1 By the twenties, it had reached most of the 
states north of the cotton belt. The old communities of 
the East and the new ones of the West were both affected. 
The rapid growth of the Berkshire System, as it was 
called, was the first great movement for better conditions 
among the small farmers of America. In its way it played 
as important a part in the evolution of American agricul- 
ture as did the Grange of the sixties and seventies. By 
arousing the interest of the small farmer in his profes- 
sion and stimulating in him a desire for improvement, it 
did much toward opening the minds of the vast, conserva- 
tive agrarian mass to the new ideas and methods of the 
new farming. 

These ideas, which Livingston and his colleagues had 
found so difficult to dispense, were now worth money. 
One of the most important results of the new and wide- 
spread interest in better farming was the birth of the 
farm press. For some time newspapers had been run- 
ning columns of hints to farmers. Now, however, a few 
courageous editors were willing to risk the entire support 
of their publications with the men of the fields. They 
were the first nonproducing agriculturists. One after 
another farm papers made their appearance, The Ameri- 
can Farmer, Baltimore, 1819, The Plow Boy, Albany, 
1819, The New England Farmer, Boston, 1822, and The 
New York Farmer, New York, 1827. No longer were the 
benefits of agricultural experience limited to the local 

It is one thing, however, to trace what seem to be the 
broad phases of agricultural development and quite a 
different thing to find out how these developments 
affected, if at all, the cultivation of the stony side hills of 

iLong Island Star, IX (1817), no. 447. 


the ordinary farmer. City people are too apt to think the 
story is told when the accounts of ' ' organizations ' J and 
"movements ' ' are finished. The picture of the new farm- 
ing, as the small, ox-driving farmers of Long Island knew 
and practiced it, is not exactly what might be expected, 
but it presents an interesting contrast to the habits and 
methods of an earlier day. Instead of the old, unim- 
proved roads of ruts and bottomless mudholes, turnpikes 
were beginning to stretch eastward from Brooklyn and 
Williamsburg. Farmers made up many of the companies 
that were building these. Although the tollgate was 
exacting its stipend, the cost of the trip to market was 
being lessened. 1 Over these new roads, after the begin- 
ning of the century, rolled a steadily increasing number 
of farm wagons loaded with sweepings from the streets 
of New York or refuse from its stables. Similar cargoes 
weighted down the fleets of small boats that plied their 
trade along the coast. The farmer who, a quarter of a 
century .before, had been exploiting the land, was now 
spending his hard-earned money on soil fertilization. 2 
Moreover on the farms near the shore the use of seaweed 
was increasing and many more thousands of menhaden 
were spread upon the fields. 8 Nor were the changes 
limited to new methods. During the second decade of the 
nineteenth century, cast-iron ploughs began to replace 
their wooden forerunners and grain-cradles to eliminate 
the time-honored sickle. 4 A remarkable revolution in 
agricultural tools was beginning. 

On the fields of Long Island, along with new tools, 
unfamiliar crops were appearing. Here and there could 
be seen plots of the newly introduced turnips and patches 

i For the details of this road building, see chapter XII. 

2 Long Island Star, I (1810), no. 36; XIX (1828), no. 35; Mitchell, 
The Picture of New YorTc (1807), p. 160. 

3 Chapter VI. . 

4 Long Island Star, VI (1815), no. 310. 


of Livingston's alfalfa. The old meadows of common 
grass were beginning to be covered with clover and timo- 
thy. 1 At the western end of the Island, where at least one 
nursery had been started far back in colonial times, 
orchards of apples, peaches, and cherries told the story 
of a broader farming. 2 With them came the garden, not 
intended merely for the family use, but as an investment 
from which a money income might be derived. 3 At the 
opening of the nineteenth century, heralded by no less a 
poet than the bard of the Revolution, Philip Freneau, the 
"Market Girl" made her debut. 

"At dawn of day, from short repose, 
At hours that might all townsmen shame, 
To catch our money, round or square, 
She from the groves of Flatbush came 
With kail and cabbage, fresh and fair." 

The new farming, however, brought to Long Island a 
time of uncertainty, a period of experimentation, in which 
were tested many possibilities both as to crops and 
methods. It was becoming evident that the old farming 
must go, but what the new type should be few could tell. 
Gardening, horticulture, animal husbandry, and the rais- 
ing of the common crops of the old days were all being 
tried. The farmers of the region, however, were feeling 
their way forward with caution. The famous English 
radical, William Cobbett, in 1817, living in exile on Long 
Island, thought them backward. He sought to introduce 
among his neighbors of the Island the general use of 

i The new crops were Euta Baga turnips, Cobbett, A Year's Residence in 
the United States of America (1818-19), I, 158; Mangel Wurzel beets, Long 
Island Star, VIII (1816), nos. 368, 374; alfalfa, Cobbett, I, 16, 22. 

2 Long Island Star, I (1809-10), nos. 5, 27, 35, 44. 

3 Spafford, Gazatteer of the State of New York (1813), p. 138; Cobbett, 
I, 41; Long Island Star, XIX (1828), no. 36; Long Island Farmer, II, no. 


turnips, but his efforts made little breach in the wall of 

The caution of these farmers was not, however, without 
a reason. Agriculture breeds personal independence. 
The farmers of America are and always have been indi- 
vidualists. The nature of the enterprise which they man- 
age and the distance that separates them from their 
neighbors both conspire to make them an upstanding, 
self-reliant people. This independence found its origin 
far back in the days of the old frontier, when a man's 
farm produced all that he needed. During the eighteenth 
century, the husbandman of Long Island and the coast 
had modified, somewhat, the self-sufficient establishment 
which he controlled and allowed himself to become de- 
pendent, to the extent of selling his "cash crops" in a 
market over which he had no influence. In the early 
decades of the nineteenth century, he was confronted with 
another change. Not only was the new farming threaten- 
ing the old independence, but standards also were shift- 
ing. A farmer must have a larger money income both 
to run his business and to support his home. This meant 
more crops for market and less for domestic use. He was 
becoming more and more dependent upon the buyer. 
During those unsettled years when men were crowding 
into the new settlements of the West and when turnpikes, 
canals, and the early railroads were opening up broad 
acres in the older country, markets fluctuated. No one 
could foretell from year to year what the conditions 
would be. If markets were unstable, the farmer, entirely 
dependent upon them, gave, indeed, hostages to fortune. 
It is no criticism of the small eastern agriculturist, there- 
fore, to say that he adapted himself to the new conditions 
slowly. Nor is it surprising that the period of adapta- 
tion, the trying out of new crops and new methods, lasted 
for practically the entire first half of the nineteenth cen- 


tury. For Long Island, however, two conditions brought 
this period to an end : one was the unprecedented growth 
of New York City in the middle years of the century ; and 
the other the development of the American agricultural 

By the time of the Civil War, the growth of American 
agricultural science was well under way. If scanty crops 
and scraggly meadows had been among the reasons for 
its appearance at the end of the eighteenth century, 
scarcity of labor was, perhaps, the dominant factor in its 
later development. The West had drawn off the people of 
the East only to spread a thin veneer of settlements over 
the plains of the Mississippi Valley. Neither West nor 
East had an adequate labor supply. Production per man 
rather than per acre was still the point of view of a nation 
that had more land than it could use. To increase a man's 
capacity to produce, therefore, became the aim of the for- 
ward-looking agriculturists. The result was the develop- 
ment of machinery that would enable the farmer to raise 
a greater acreage of crops. One after another, the labor- 
saving devices of present-day farming made their appear- 
ance. The new cast-iron plough came into general use 
about 1825. From 1830 to 1840, a primitive form of 
grain thresher was eliminating the flail and the threshing 
floor. In the forties, the " horse rake" relieved the 
farmer's wife of the necessity of raking the cured hay 
into winrows after the scythe. During the same years, 
the epoch-making reapers of Hussey and McCormick were 
increasing enormously the amount of grain which a 
farmer could raise and handle. In the following decade, 
the mower did for the hayfield what the reaper had done 
for wheat, and the modern type of thresher, which not 
only threshes the grain but separates it from the chaff, 
began to be hauled from farm to farm. These were the 
important tools. Beside them, a host of minor inventions 


affected almost every phase of the farmer's life. The age 
of homespun came to an end. 1 The new tools spelled the 
doom of the ox. That great, slow-moving beast, admira- 
bly adapted to the simple needs of the old farming, could 
not compete with the specialized horse in the hauling of 
the machines of the new era. Thus the development of 
the agrarian revolution brought the first important 
change of power on the farms of America. 

If the passing of the ox is one of the milestones marking 
the progress of American farming, another is to be found 
along the path of knowledge. In 1857, was established the 
Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, the first 
important institution of its kind in America. Three years 
later, after a series of "lectures and discussions at New 
Haven ' ' in which Silliman participated, it was announced 
that a ' ' large sum of money . . . has already been con- 
tributed toward the erection of commodious buildings for 
the Yale College Scientific and Agricultural School and, 
during the summer, a complete set of models and paint- 
ings of animals, of different kinds of agricultural imple- 
ments, of fruits, etc., will be gathered for use in illustrat- 
ing future lectures and discussions." 2 Whether because 
Connecticut farming was too backward to support it or 
for other reasons, the Yale Agricultural School never 
developed, although the importance of the Yale confer- 
ences was very great. In 1862, the Morrill Act of the 
United States government gave each state thirty thou- 
sand acres of government land or its equivalent, multi- 
plied by the number of state's senators and representa- 

i Long Island Star, XV (1825), nos. 807, 814; XIX (1828), no. 45; Long 
Island Farmer, XII (1831), no. 640; The Cultivator, I (1834), 52; V 
(1838), 7; VI (1839), 7, 36, 72, 181; VII (1840), 89; New York State 
Agricultural Society, Transactions (1842), p. 188; Long Island Farmer, 
XIV (1846), no. 36; XVIII (1850), no. 5; XIX (1851), no. 24; XXIX 
(1861), no. 12; American Agriculturist, XIV (1855), 15. 

2 American Agriculturist, XIX (1860), 102. 


tives, to found a college of the agricultural and mechanical 
arts. Beginning with the Cornell Agricultural College, 
in 1867, more than forty institutions for the promotion of 
husbandry have been founded. With the development of 
these institutions farming definitely began to leave the 
' ' rule of thumb ' ' stage and to enter upon that of science. 

To Long Island, agricultural development brought the 
same general changes that it did to all the seaboard 
from New England to the cotton country, for the im- 
proved machinery, the changed power, and the scientific 
methods all speedily found their way to its fields. But 
in the issue the revolution there was fundamentally modi- 
fied by the development of New York City. When, in 
1825, a line of booming cannon, stretching from Buffalo 
to New York, announced the opening of the Erie Canal, 
forces were loosed which were ultimately to bring almost 
a complete overturn to the life of the Long Island people. 
The great Hudson-Mohawk gateway into the interior had, 
at last, been opened. During the years when the agrarian 
revolution was developing, canals, highways, and rail- 
roads had been carrying the products of the vast hinter- 
land through the broad pass, and New York City, winning 
the contest with the other cities of the coast, became the 
metropolis of America. This great centre of population 
covered Manhattan Island and spread westward to New 
Jersey, northward across the Harlem, and eastward to 
the plains of Long Island. Brooklyn, absorbing the vil- 
lage of Williamsburg, became an important city. At the 
mouth of the Hudson the life of the hinterland met the 
great highways of the sea. Long Island lay just beside 
the meeting ground. He would have been dull, indeed, 
who could not have foretold the result. 

The power of the larger New York came home to every 
hamlet from one end of the Island to the other, when, in 
1844, wheezy locomotives rumbled, for the first time, over 


the tracks of the old "main line" of the Long Island Rail- 
road from Brooklyn to Greenport. Markets whose dis- 
tance from the eastern villages had been measured in days 
were now only a few hours away. New York, like a great 
magnet, was pulling everything toward itself. Further- 
more, the market had stabilized. For Long Island, the 
period of variation was at an end. The decision as to 
what Long Island farming should be had been made. 
Gardening was to be the lot of the Long Island farmer. 
The only task that remained was adaptation to the inevi- 

It was not easy, however, to leap directly from the 
general farm to the truck farm. It meant that the hus- 
bandman must learn a new business. It meant, further, 
that the last vestige of the self-sufficient farm must go. 
Under such circumstances, a conflict was inevitable be- 
tween extensive and intensive agriculture. The farmers 
in the hill country of the northern half of Queens County 
became dairymen, producing milk for the consumption of 
New York and Brooklyn. In the sixties Westbury was 
the most important milk-shipping station of the Long 
Island Railroad. During the next two decades, the busi- 
ness grew to such proportions that in 1886 five hundred 
dairy farmers were found to sign a petition against an 
alleged grievance on the part of the railroad. Although, 
for a few years, the business underwent a boom, its days 
were limited. The time was soon to come when the land 
of Queens County would become too valuable to use for 
hayfields and pasture lots. Sooner or later, the inten- 
sively cultivated garden was bound to drive off the herds. 
By the end of the nineties the dairy business had prac- 
tically ceased to exist. 1 

i American Agriculturist, XIV (1855), 73; XX (1861), 38; Long Island 
via the Long Island Bailroad (1868), p. 18; New York State Bailroad Be- 
ports (1884), I, 196. 


Little would be gained by telling in detail the compli- 
cated story of the introduction of the new plants that 
brought the truck farm to Long Island in the latter half 
of the nineteenth century. On the farms at the western 
end, the gardens simply grew in size until they swallowed 
up all the fields. Here and there, a flower farm made its 
appearance. Night after night, the ever lengthening 
caravan of truckmen rolled into Brooklyn and across the 
ferry to reach the markets of New York before the open- 
ing morning hours. The story was but little different at 
the eastern end of the Island. Within a decade after the 
completion of the main line of the railroad, the potato 
output of Suffolk County had nearly doubled. 1 The years 
from the fifties to the nineties saw the rise and fall of the 
strawberry business on farms from Riverhead to Cutch- 
ogue. 2 With the decline of strawberries, came the intro- 
duction of crops that have stood the test of time, first 
cauliflower, then asparagus, and, finally, cucumbers and 
brussels sprouts. 3 These, together with potatoes, are the 
main dependence of the new eastern farmers. Down upon 
the green fields of the small farms, neatly laid out in 
parallel rows, look the quiet, great-armed windmills, 
picturesque and unused relics of a generation that has 

Together with the introduction of new plants have come 
other developments. The fertilization of the fields with 

i French, Gazatteer of the State of New York (1860), p. 639; Sag Har- 
bor Express, XIII (1872), no. 29; Hedges, Bicentennial of Suffolk County 
(1883), p. 43; Long Island Traveler, XXII (1892), no. 5; XXIX (1899), 
no. 1. 

2 Sag Harbor Express, XIV (1872), no. 1; Long Island Traveler, XV 
(1886), no. 43; XX (1893), no. 43. 

s Cauliflower, Sag Harbor Express, XIII (1871), no. 21; Long Island 
Traveler, XV (1885), no. 11; XXX (1901), no. 41. Cucumbers, Jamaica 
Farmer, XLIX (1870), no. 21; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LIX (1899), no. 278. 
Asparagus, Long Island Traveler, XV (1886), no. 40; XXX (1901), no. 41. 
Brussels sprouts, Long Island Traveler, XXXI (1901), no. 1. 


fish was largely abandoned because the menhaden became 
too valuable. In its place carloads of manure were 
shipped, as they still are, from New York to be laid 
thickly over the mellow gardens. Here and there, over- 
head irrigation has made an occasional gardener inde- 
pendent of the rains. In other places, the vegetables have 
begun to be raised under the glass of a greenhouse roof. 
In more than one of the villages the canning factory, that 
institution which has taken so much labor from the shoul- 
ders of the busy housewife, has begun with the city 
market its competition for the output of the locality. 
Along the swamps of the Peconic River red-fruited cran- 
berry fields, crossed by tiny canals and held in by dykes, 
have increased in size and number. Beside the shallow, 
tidewater creeks that empty into the quiet waters of 
Moriches Bay or into the eastern end of Great South Bay 
has occurred a development that is a direct adaptation to 
the peculiarities of the local topography. On these flat- 
banked creeks which broaden out into little estuaries duck 
raisers, furnishing thousands of ducks yearly to the New 
York markets, have laid out their noisy pens half on land 
and half in the water. What a contrast is there between 
the duck farms and the much cultivated gardens of the 
present day, whose products are hurried to market in 
motor vehicles over macadam highways, and the broad 
fields of old, ploughed by lumbering oxen, and the 
meadows dotted with cocks of hay cut with the scythe and 
raked by hand. The old farming has given place to the 
new, and only an occasional plantation, like a quiet eddy 
beside the main stream, remains to tell the story of what 
once was. 

Looking back over a span that covers nearly three cen- 
turies, it is possible to see a little more clearly the role 
that the farmer has played in the story of Long Island. 
It is not too much to say that into his hands was given 


the task of laying the foundation for the civilization of 
the region. He cleared away the forests and built and 
defended the first rough hamlets that dotted the shore. 
It was he who first laid out the roads that ultimately 
joined these settlements together. In the beginning, when 
practically all the people were farmers, it was on the 
fields and meadows that the life of the Island rested. -Dur- 
ing the eighteenth century a division of labor divided 
Long Island people into different occupational groups. 
By the end of that century a small school of theoretical 
agriculturists was beginning the science of agriculture. 
To the common farmer of the East the new ideas and 
theories made small appeal until improved transporta- 
tion facilities brought the competition of the rejuvenated 
back country and the vast West to his very doors. The 
interest in better farming which economic necessity had 
aroused was greatly stimulated by the tremendous success 
of the Berkshire societies. The new state of mind of the 
farmer was almost immediately reflected in the birth of 
the farm press. Long Island reacted to these changes in 
much the same way as did other farming sections east of 
the Appalachians. It is not too much to say, however, 
that the first half of the nineteenth century, which saw 
the growth of revolution in farming, was a period of varia- 
tion and adaptation not only for Long Island but for the 
whole of America as well. Before the revolution was 
complete, crop specialization by sections had made its 
appearance. The corn belt and the wheat belt had begun 
to be recognized. Dairy sections had appeared here and 
there and certain localities had been marked off for diver- 
sified farming. For climatic and geographic reasons 
Long Island became a garden and ultimately developed 
into one of the richest garden areas in America. Thus 
from the beginning of the garden phase Long Island has 
reflected very imperfectly the agricultural development 


of the nation, though the change has not diminished the 
basic importance of agriculture for the civilization of the 
region. As the old range of low-lying hills that made up 
the first Long Island supports the tumbled glacial de- 
posits that later eras have piled upon them, so the farmer, 
who was the first Long Islander, still supports the life 
that later generations have called into being. 



Not all the men of Long Island were destined to be 
farmers. Some chose to go down to the sea in ships. 
There is a relation between the land and the adjacent 
ocean full of significance for the man who lives on the 
shore. The sea pulls one way and the land the other. 
The shore dweller must choose between the two. There 
is no option. Long Island lies offshore like a great tree, 
uprooted and fallen in the water, its trunk and branches 
half submerged. To Long Island people, therefore, this 
choice has come in all its difficulty. It is not surprising 
that many have answered the call of the sea or that the 
story of the life of Long Island people broadens out to 
the ocean beyond the beach. 

To the eastern peninsulas that enclose Peconic Bay 
clings a sea-tale well worthy of recounting. It begins 
with the first appearance of human life on the Island. In 
the years when the early colonists were founding tiny 
settlements here and there along the coast of New Eng- 
land and Long Island, the rough winter waters of the 
north Atlantic were dotted with whales. Many a fisher- 
man, on his way to the Newfoundland banks, sailed past 
them. People standing on the bleak beach could see them 
often come nosing in close to shore. Like the bison on the 
yet unknown western prairies, they offered both sport and 
profit to those who would hunt them. These whales were 
to play an important part in the lives of the adventurous 


men and women who built their cabins and their palisades 
on the shore at East Hampton and Southampton. It was 
an exposed beach against which drove the full force of the 
Atlantic. Offshore, where the sea had cut back the land, 
the water was shallow and the surf unusually heavy. 
Many a whale, unable to weather a winter storm, was 
driven onto the sands of this wind-swept peninsula lying 
far out to sea. So frequently, after a blow, did the early 
people of the Hamptons find a whale cast up that they 
quickly became familiar with the manner of handling the 
carcass. On their exposed beach American whaling is 
supposed to have begun. In 1644, within four years after 
its settlement, the men of Southampton divided the vil- 
lagers into four groups, each group to take charge of all 
drift whales cast ashore in its ward. Whenever one was 
washed up, lots were promptly cast and two persons from 
each group selected to cut it up. In East Hampton, 
"oversears" were appointed by the town meeting to see 
that each man did his work and that * l all be cut soe near 
as may be. ' ' The bounty of the sea was shared by all alike 
save the cutters, who received a double portion for their 
labor. When the work was done, the watchful Indians by 
right of treaty, were allowed to carry off the "fynnes and 
tails." On these exposed southern beaches of Long 
Island, therefore, whaling began as a community enter- 

The aggressive Hampton frontiersmen, however, were 
not long content to wait upon fortune. On the tops of 
the highest sand dunes along the shore they planted 
watchmen, the men of the town being called out ' i by suc- 
cession to loke out for whale. ' ' When the black, spouting 
mass was discerned in the gray offshore waters, the watch 
would sing out the alarm. It must have been a strange 
sight to see the quiet little village of cabins, tucked up for 
winter inside the palisade, suddenly rouse itself to energy 


and excitement. At the sound of the familiar call, the 
street would suddenly be filled with men, women, and 
children running for the gate and the path that led to the 
water. Crude harpoons would clatter on the bottom of 
small boats into each of which six men would clamber and 
seize the oars. The breathless watchers on the shore 
could see a small fleet of these, hovering like kingbirds 
above a hawk, about the swashing whale. They could 
watch the risky chase as it zigzagged along the coast 
until the prey was killed or had disappeared in the rollers 
of the deep sea. The fishery had advanced from the col- 
lection to the hunting stage. If the whale was killed and 
the great carcass guided to the beach, the villagers had 
'work for days to come. 1 First came the cutting up. Then 
the oil was tried out. When this latter task was reached, 
the romance of whaling came suddenly to an end. Noth- 
ing can describe the scene that followed a successful chase 
better than the unadorned words of a public order to the 
people of Southampton, issued March 4, 1669. "Whereas 
the trying of oyle so near the street and houses, is soe 
extreme noysome to all passers by, especially to those not 
accustomed to the sent thereof, and is considered hurtful 
to the health of people — and . . .is very dangerous (if 
oyle should fire) for firing houses or hay stacks, the cort 
doth order that noe person after this present yeare, shall 
try any oyle in this towne nearer than 25 poles from the 
main street of the towne, under penalty of paying £5 
fine." 2 With "oyle" passing as currency in some of the 
local trade exchanges at the rate of one pound ten shil- 
lings per barrel the thrifty Hampton people could afford 
to put up with the olfactory discomforts of the business. 3 

i Documentary History of New YorTc, I, 677; East Hampton Records, I, 
54; Tower, A History of the American Whale Fishery (1907), pp. 19-25. 

2 Quoted from the record of the Court of Sessions for Suffolk County in 
Thompson, History of Long Island, I, 255. 

3 1679, Huntington Records, I, 239. 


As the seventeenth century drew to a close, there 
occurred a further development in the fishery. Whaling 
"companies" were formed. They were primitive con- 
cerns, simple associations of a few men owning small 
boats and tools. These companies usually hired Indians 
to man the boats. During the winter season, when the 
whales were in the ocean, these boats, manned by red- 
skins and commanded by whites, could be seen working 
their way along the treacherous waters outside the bar- 
rier beaches of the southern Long Island shore. When 
night came, the parties would pull up on the beach and 
camp for the night. Sometimes these adventurous com- 
panies would be gone two or three weeks down the deso- 
late and uninhabited coast. 1 Occasionally there would be 
an altercation with a representative of His Majesty the 
King of England, who would learn of a stranded whale 
and appear upon the shore to collect the king's share. 
Even the efficient Governor Andros, however, had to 
admit failure and report that "very few whales have been 
droven on shoare but what have been killed & claimed by 
the Whalers . . . and tho ' I have not been wanting in my 
endeavours I never could recover any part thereof for 
his Eoyal Highness." 2 The prosperity of the offshore 
whale fishery grew until on Long Island in one year alone 
(1707) four thousand barrels of oil were made. 3 This 
year seems, however, to indicate a high-water mark. As 
the eighteenth century progressed, the business declined. 
In 1718, it was reported that the whales had left this 
coast. By the middle of the century, the industry had 
fallen into almost complete neglect. 4 

The reason for the decline of the Long Island offshore 

i Huntington Becords, I, 295 ; Tower, p. 23. 

2 N. Y. Col. Docts., Ill, 311. 

3 Ibid., V, 60. 

4 Ibid., V, 510; Smith, History of New York (1762), I, 273. 


whale fishery is not difficult to discover. To the east of 
Montauk Point, lay Nantucket Island, like a great boulder 
off the Massachusetts coast. On Long Island the pull of 
the sea had been strong enough to draw the people only 
to the waters off the shore. The sterile soil of Nantucket, 
however, joining its influence to that of the ocean, drove 
its inhabitants out into the deep sea. There being few 
other ways whereby to make a living, whaling became the 
dominant pursuit of the people of the region. Hardly 
had the eighteenth century begun, when ships from Nan- 
tucket were turning whaling into a deep-sea fishery. In 
1712, sperm-whaling was begun by the men of that island. 
Year after year their sturdy, square-rigged vessels could 
be seen pushing farther and farther out. Some ventured 
as far north as the icebound waters of Davis Strait. 
Others worked their way southward toward the equator. 
On the eve of the American Revolution, the prows of Nan- 
tucket whalers were disturbing the waters of the Brazil- 
ian coast. 1 The little boat, creeping along the shore, 
could not compete with the seagoing ship. When deep- 
sea whaling supplanted the offshore type, the villagers of 
East Hampton and Southampton discovered that their 
coast was not suited to the industry in its new form. 
Neither village had a harbor. If the men who had formed 
the whaling companies wished to continue to catch whales, 
they must seek a home elsewhere. By the middle of the 
eighteenth century, a few had moved across the narrow 
peninsula and had established themselves on a sheltered 
arm of Gardiners Bay. ' t Sag' ' they called the new abode. 
In this new station deep-sea whaling, by Long Islanders 
began. Their development, however, was far behind that 
of Nantucket. In 1760, Sag Harbor's three ships, Good- 
luck, Dolphin, and Success, made up her whole fleet, while 
fifteen years later, Nantucket was sending to sea one 

i Tower, pp. 23-28. 


hundred and fifty vessels. This tiny hamlet, south of 
Shelter Island, however, founded by whalers, was des- 
tined ultimately to become one of the great centres of the 
American fishery. 

The battle of Lexington was the opening event in a 
long period of uncertainty and disaster for the whale 
fishery. This period did not end until, forty years later, 
Andrew Jackson defeated the British at New Orleans. 
For years, during the Eevolution and the War of 1812, 
the guns of English warships blocked the paths to the 
open ocean. In the interim between the conflicts, John 
Adams 's unpleasantness with France and Thomas Jeffer- 
son 's policy of "peaceful coercion" were almost as disas- 
trous to the whaler as formal wars. During these forty 
years, well named "the critical period of American whal- 
ing, ' ' the people of Nantucket suffered the greatest hard- 
ships. The Long Islander, however, was able to turn to 
other work until a real peace made the ocean once more 
secure. When the second war with England came to an 
end, a sadly diminished fleet put out from the old whaling 
ports to try again its luck at sea. 1 

At the outset of the building up of a new business, Sag 
Harbor met with misfortune. In June, 1817, the little 
town of closely packed wooden buildings was gutted by 
fire. Scarcely a store in the business section was left 
standing. The life of a whaler, however, is one long 
gamble. Neither fires nor shipwrecks need block his 
enterprise. By 1820, the village was fully able to meet 
again the competition of its rivals. These were more 
numerous than before the long period of war and uncer- 
tainty. New Bedford and New London had now taken 
their places beside Nantucket and Sag Harbor. From 
these four, of which the greatest was to be New Bedford, 
sailed the bulk of the great American whaling fleet which 

1 Starbuck, History of the American Whale Fishery (1876), p. 43. 


swept the seven seas. Year after year, as new fields were 
opened up, an increasing number of vessels put off from 
the docks of Sag Harbor for voyages that rounded the 
Horn and turned northward into the Pacific. By 1836, 
there were twenty-one whalers, some of them from the 
"Eastern oceans,' ' that called Sag Harbor home. Five 
hundred thousand dollars represented the investment of 
the villagers. It was the golden era of the whale fishery. 
During the forties, this village, now grown to more than 
three thousand people, fairly burst with prosperity. The 
forty-four ships in 1843 increased to more than sixty in 
1847; the investment to more than two million dollars. 
Other towns also on Peconic Bay felt the pull of the sea. 
Jamesport and New Suffolk sent out an occasional vessel 
and Greenport had a fleet of twelve. With all the expan- 
sion, however, Sag Harbor remained the centre for Long 
Island. 1 At the wharves of this village were to be found 
the weather-beaten ships that had been around the world. 

"I touch my country's mind, I come to grips 
With half her purpose, thinking of these ships, 
That art untouched by softness, all that line 
Drawn ringing hard to stand the test of brine, 
That splendour of fine bows which yet could stand 
The shock of rollers never checked by land. 
That art of masts, sail crowded, fit to break, 
Yet stayed to strength and backstayed into rake, 
The life demanded by that art, the keen 
Eye-puckered, hard-case seamen, silent, lean, — 
Earth will not see such ships as those again." 

By the decade of the forties, when American whaling 
reached the zenith of its prosperity, great changes had 

iSpafford, Gazatteer of the State of New York (1824), p. 491; Gordon, 
Gazatteer of the State of New YorTc (1836), p. 715; Thompson, I, 349, 351; 
Mather, Geography of the State of New YorTc (1847), p. 168. 


come to the fishery. In those days, the Nantucket fleet 
was leading that of Sag Harbor by a few ships. New 
Bedford, however, was sending out more than two hun- 
dred and fifty ships a year. American whaling boats 
could be found in every ocean. 1 Changes also had come 
in the methods used since those early days, when the 
hardy people of the Hamptons had sent out their Indians 
in open boats. Instead of creeping along the stormy 
waters off Fire Island Beach, the Sag Harbor whaler set 
out for a voyage that often encircled the globe. Some- 
times, if luck was good, he came back in two years. More 
often, however, the time was three or more. There were 
many trips that resulted in failure. Whaling was, after 
all, a fishery, subject to all the uncertainties of that most 
uncertain vocation. Some voyages brought a catch worth 
fifty and even seventy-five thousand dollars, and such 
opportunities brought able men into the business. The 
ocean saw no better seamen nor more intelligent leaders 
than the captains of the whaling ships. 

Although ships were constantly coming and going, the 
sailing of a whaling vessel was an event in the life of the 
little village of Sag Harbor. The crowd of friends and 
relatives that gathered at the wharf to wave good-bye 
inspected an equipment brought to the highest possible 
pitch of perfection. The vessel, of four hundred or five 
hundred tons, was rigged for seaworthiness rather than 
speed. Just forward of the mainmast and imbedded in 
brick was the huge boiler for trying out oil. Above the 
decks hung the curved whale boats, twenty-eight feet in 
length and sharp at both ends, boats rowed by four men 
and capable of being handled with the greatest speed and 
quickness. As they hung in the blocks, each of them was 
equipped with the harpoons and the long, deadly lances 
used in the chase. On the decks below could be seen the 

i Tower, Appendix, Table ii. 


captain and one or two mates supervising the departure. 
Here and there on the vessel worked the crew. Among 
these were a few specialists, a cook, a steward, a car- 
penter, a blacksmith, a cooper, a doctor, and one boat 
steerer for each of the whale boats. In addition were the 
common seamen, usually sufficient in number to bring the 
total to about thirty men. The seamen were a motley lot. 
There were Indians and half-breeds from the reservation 
in the Shinnecock Hills, and with them were many choice 
spirits whose loss from the village community was not 
lamented. When the last rope had been cast off and the 
ship stood out to sea no one could foretell when or under 
what circumstances she would return. There were enough 
who never came back to give to such a departure a touch 
of solemnity. 1 

A favorite voyage of the forties was to touch at the 
Azores, follow down the west coast of Africa and, round- 
ing the Cape of Good Hope, to cross the Indian Ocean to 
Australia. Here the whaler turned his prow northward. 
Sometimes he went to the whaling grounds in the Bering 
Sea, sometimes to the "offshore" grounds in the central 
Pacific. Many times he stopped at one of the Polynesian 
Islands to barter with the natives for supplies. On the 
homeward journey, the skipper rounded Cape Horn and, 
a second time, turned north. It was a long trip and a 
dangerous one. 2 Whales were not easy to catch. Of all 
the pursuits of the sea none were more exciting or more 
exacting in the skill and intelligence required for success 
than the whale chase in the open ocean. When the watch 
sang out the alarm, ' ' There she blows ! ' ' the work began. 
The whale boats were lowered and made their way cau- 
tiously and silently toward the dark, spouting mass. Not 

iLong Island Star, XX (1829), no. 50; " Eeminiscenees of John Ford- 
ham," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LX (1900), no. 263. 

sFordham, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LX (1900), no. 263. 


seldom did the chase carry the boats so far away that the 
distant ship was but a small spot on the horizon. When 
striking distance had been reached, the captain or mate in 
the bow threw the harpoon and "fastened" the whale to 
the boat. Then began the manoeuvring to get into posi- 
tion for casting the lance that struck through to a vital 
spot. It was in this manoeuvring that the danger lay. 
Perhaps the whale, maddened by pain, would rush the 
boat, and more than one craft proved unable to avoid the 
onslaught and was broken to bits between the great teeth. 
Perhaps, if it were a right whale, it would dart about 
lashing the water with its tremendous tail and flukes, a 
blow from which would throw the boat well into the air. 
There were times when lives hung upon the ability of the 
boat steerer in the stern. Let the danger be never so 
great, however, few captains would willingly let their 
prey escape. The prize was worth too much. When it 
had been killed and the ship brought alongside, the oil 
and bone taken out would amount in value to hundreds of 
dollars. The product of the catch was divided between 
the owners and the crew. The men who shipped for the 
long voyage rarely drew wages. They sailed "on the 
lay," each man sharing according to a prearranged plan 
in the profits of the trip. This was the evolutionary out- 
growth of the early community fishing at the Hamptons.' 
When the ground had been covered, the ship with the 
oil and bone obtained turned her prow homeward to the 
little village on the eastern end of Long Island. The 
home-coming of such a whaler was indeed an event in the 
life of the town. As soon as she was sighted down the 
bay, boats put off filled with the owners of the vessel and 
the families and friends of the officers, while the news of 
the arrival spread through the streets. Almost as one, 

i Many thrilling tales of whale-fishing are to be found in Starbuck, who 
gathered most of them from the whalers of New Bedford. 


the people turned out to watch the weather-beaten whaler 
tack up to the crowded wharf. Well might the residents 
of Sag Harbor come out to greet the returning whaler. It 
seemed as though almost every man and woman in the 
village, in one way or another, was interested in the voy- 
age. There were tales to be told and experiences to relate. 
The money brought into the community stimulated the 
business of the local retail merchants. Before the vessel 
could again put to sea, demands would be made on the 
cooperages for casks and barrels, and the ship chandleries 
would be called upon to furnish all kinds of miscellaneous 
equipment. Sailmakers and ship-carpenters would find 
plenty of work overhauling the vessel and putting her in 
shape for the next cruise, while blacksmiths would be busy 
replacing her irons and tools. In short, the whole life of 
the community was centred at the dock to which the peo- 
ple flocked to greet the home comers. 1 

In a totally different way, however, the individuals of 
the community were interested in the fortunes of the 
returning ship. The organization of the whale fishery 
was an ingenious adaptation to the ever present element 
of chance. Whaling vessels were seldom the property of 
individuals. Incorporated companies owned and con- 
trolled a certain fraction of the shipping. Four of these, 
Howell Brothers and Hunting, Mulfred and Sleight, 
Charles T. Deering, and H. and S. French were the most 
important. The majority of the vessels, however, seem 
to have been owned in a different way. Some individual 
in the community, often a whaling captain himself, would 
take the initiative in the raising of money to build a ship. 
Stock in the vessel would be issued and sold to the people. 
In this way both the risks and the profits of the voyage 
were distributed throughout the whole population. No 
one need be ruined by the failure of a single ship. It was 

i Thompson, I, 349; Sag Harbor Express, I (1859), no. 60. 


an organization centred in the idea of insurance and, as 
a result, it made the whole village one great wha'ling con- 
cern. 1 

No less swift than its rise was the decline of Sag Har- 
bor whaling. In 1845, fire again blackened the streets of 
the town. Four years later the lure of the California gold 
fields took many of its citizens away from the sea. 2 But 
in spite of these setbacks the business flourished. In 
1869, however, petroleum was discovered and in the suc- 
ceeding years coal oil steadily replaced whale oil. This 
circumstance, coupled with the gradual disappearance of 
the whales, brought an end to the Sag Harbor fishery. By 
1860, its fleet had dwindled sadly. After 1874, no more 
vessels put to sea. 3 During the hard years of the decline, 
the population of the little village diminished by half. 
When the end came Sag Harbor faced annihilation. The 
sole foundation on which the community had rested for 
more than a hundred years had crumbled. With the 
energy which is born of necessity the village sought to 
save itself. A cotton manufacturing plant was induced 
to establish itself in the town. After years of roving life 
on the broad seas of the world the people of the old whal- 
ing port were forced to settle down to the earning of their 
living beside machines in a stuffy factory. 

Since the day when the last whaler tied up to the Sag 
Harbor wharf, the village has changed in aspect and 
interests. Change also has come to East Hampton and 
Southampton on the other side of the narrow peninsula. 
These villages on whose beaches the whale fishery began 
are now two of the most beautiful summer places in 
America. To these same beaches, however, every few 

i Gordon, Gazatteer of the State of New YorTc (1836), p. 715; Fordham, 
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LX (3900), no. 263. 

2 Sag Harbor Express, XIII (1871), no. 21. 

3 Tower, p. 124. 


years, a whale comes nosing in and sometimes is caught 
in the pounding surf. More than once the villages have 
been stirred by the excitement of a whale chase like those 
of three centuries ago. The restless ghost of the old 
whale fishery still haunts the familiar shores whence the 
earliest whalers pushed off in their primitive open boats. 1 

i Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LVIII (1898), no. 9. 



The menhaden fishery is not much known outside the 
small shore communities that are directly interested. It 
has little of the romance of whaling and does not demand 
the hardihood required in the quest for cod off the New- 
foundland banks. There is scant material in this business 
of the sea with which to stir the imagination. Yet the 
story of the development of the menhaden fishery is not 
without value. The shore is the greatest boundary line 
in the world and the coast area the world's greatest zone 
of transition. Most people think of the beach line that 
runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence 
as the eastern edge of the United States and fail to realize 
that it is also the western rim of the Atlantic Ocean. Per- 
haps this story of the development of an obscure fishery, 
a story in which the sea plays none of its famous roles, 
the great barrier, the highway for endless commerce or 
the source of limitless food supply, will serve to point out 
one of the lesser ways by which the ocean influences the 
lives of the people who live on the shore, and the silent 
power of that influence when it has once begun to operate. 
Many an older resident still lives along the shores of 
Peconic Bay or Great South Bay who well remembers the 
time when the menhaden came frequently to those shel- 
tered arms of the sea. He can recall the sudden appear- 
ance of vast schools of these fish, sometimes hundreds of 
thousands of them, rushing into the shallow offshore 


waters, pursued, perhaps, by their voracious enemies, the 
sharks or the bluefish. The coming of these menhaden, 
swimming just under the surface of the agitated water, 
presented a strange spectacle. There were times when 
the bays seemed full. From time immemorial, these fish 
have migrated in the summer months from their haunts in 
southern waters or in the deep sea to cast their spawn in 
the sheltered coves and inlets of the North Atlantic coast. 
Booth Bay and Cape Ann, Narragansett Bay, Long 
Island, the Jersey coast, Chesapeake Bay, and even Cape 
Hatteras are the regions to which they came. It was in 
o these bays and estuaries that the menhaden fishery 
began. 1 

There is a saying among some students of society that 
man adapts himself to his environment, not so much as it 
really is, but as he thinks it is. The traveler among the 
coast people of New England or Long Island at almost 
any time during the century and a half of the colonial 
period would have found a striking illustration of this. 
To the shores on which these people lived, the vast schools 
of menhaden annually came and were allowed to go away 
again with scarcely a net drawn to catch them. The local 
fishermen used a few for bait, but there was little more 
than that in the business. The "mossbunker" was not a 
food fish and was, therefore, considered valueless. The 
beginning of the fishery must, on this account, await the 
time when some need should arise which the menhaden 
could satisfy. 

By the end of the eighteenth century, scanty crops and 
thinning meadows had begun to tell the story of the ex- 
haustion which had come to the farm lands of New Eng- 

i An indispensable reference for menhaden and the menhaden fishery is 
Goode, Eeport of the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, 1877, Appendix 
A. The sections which are not biological are composed largely of source 
material, reports, letters, et cetera. 


land and Long Island. Exploitative and unscientific 
methods had borne their inevitable fruit. 1 For a century 
and more, however, the means for replenishing the soil 
had been at hand, little used and apparently but little 
thought of. About the time of the opening of the nine- 
teenth century, however, when the damage had mostly 
been done, farmers began to make use of the great schools 
of fish which frequented the coast. Ezra L'Hommedieu, 
one of the group of pioneer agricultural experimenters, 
published a long paper of conclusions based 6n observa- 
tions of his own and of others. 2 Within the first decade of 
the new century, the new fertilizer became well estab- 
lished. The people of the shore swept the bays and Sound 
and "covered their fields with immense shoals of white- 
fish." 3 It took eight thousand to dress an acre of land. 
Sometimes the fish were ploughed in. Sometimes they 
were left on the surface to putrefy in the sun. The pun- 
gent odor which arose from the decaying soil may well 
have been the reason why the use of "mossbunkers" did 
not at once become general. Profits, however, beat down 
aesthetic objections and the use of " bunkers' ' spread. 
Numbers help but little in giving an idea of the steady 
rise of the fishery. The hundreds of thousands of fish 
that were caught in the early years of the nineteenth cen- 
tury grew to millions when the first quarter had been 
passed. These, in turn, became hundreds of millions as 
the half -century mark approached. In the rejuvenating 
of the impoverished soil of Long Island the long-neglected 
"mossbunker" played a leading part. Better farming 
and bigger catches went hand in hand. The menhaden 
fishery was dependent upon agriculture. 4 

i Chapter III. 

2 Transactions, I (1801), 65-67. 

3 Dwight, Travels in New England and New York (1822), III, 305. 

4 Thompson, I, 440. 


The organization of the menhaden fishery during this 
"agricultural phase" was a simple one. The first fisher- 
men were mainly farmers who went out in boats to take 
the fish when they should appear. As the demand in- 
creased, "companies" were organized, devoting their 
whole time during the season to the capture of "bunkers. ' ' 
There were the "Coots," the "Fish Hawks," the 
"Eagles," the "Pedoodles," the "Water Witches" and 
a host of other "companies" scattered here and there 
along the sands of Peconic Bay or the lagoons of the south 
shore. The most important possession of each organiza- 
tion was a huge seine, sometimes fully three-quarters of 
a mile in length. A small, weathered, board shack on the 
beach was called "headquarters," and in this most of the 
meagre equipment was stored. When the surface of the 
bay was rippled, as by a puff of breeze, the "company" 
would hastily put off in large, sharp-pointed rowboats 
and bend to the oars to reach the school ahead of any rival 
organization. Swiftly the fish would be surrounded. 
Each boat would drop overboard the segment of the net 
it carried. The pieces would be coupled together and the 
ends of the great seine brought to the shore as near as 
possible to the headquarters shack. Horses would be 
hitched to the net at the water's edge and the fish drawn 
slowly up the beach. When all was done, a heap of glisten- 
ing "bunkers," perhaps a hundred thousand or more, 
would lie piled up on the sand. Putting away their boats, 
the "Fish Hawks" or the "Water Witches" would begin 
counting out the catch. As the news of the haul spread 
throughout the countryside, the farmers would come 
flocking to the water to load their lumber wagons with the 
fish. When the last of these had jolted away into the 
interior, the great net would be slowly wound up on a 
giant reel and left in the sun to dry, while the watch again 
began his lookout for the disturbed water above another 


school. It was the simple organization of an offshore 
fishery. 1 

The middle of the nineteenth centnry brought a change 
to the menhaden fishery. For some years, a few people 
had been trying with indifferent results to extract oil from 
the "bunkers" by boiling them in whalers' "try-pots." 
In 1850, however, D. D. Wells built on the shore near 
Greenport, Long Island, the first menhaden oil factory 
ever seen on the Atlantic coast. Great success did not 
immediately attend this venture for the product was of 
a dark color and exuded a highly offensive odor. Per- 
sistent efforts, however, on the part of Mr. Wells in im- 
proving his methods and machinery, soon developed an 
oil that was saleable. It could be used in painting and 
tanning and also for the adulteration of more expensive 
oils. The refuse left, after the oil had been expressed, 
was also utilized. This "scrap," as it was called, was 
dried, pulverized, and made into a fertilizer of great value 
that sold among the farmers of the eastern states as 
"guano." 2 The coming of the factory put an end to the 
simple agricultural phase of the menhaden fishery, which 
was now established for the first time on a basis that 
would justify a man in risking his entire livelihood in the 
prosecution of the enterprise. The farmer of the Island, 
however, finding his supply of fish depleted and ' ' guano ' ' 
too expensive for general use, was forced to bestir him- 
self to a search for other sources whence fertilizer might 
be obtained. 

The high prices of the Civil War period brought pros- 
perity and also many competitors to the Wells enterprise. 

i ' ' Keminiscences of a citizen of New Suffolk, ' ' Long Island Traveler, 
XXVII (1898), no. 22; Prime, History of Long Island (1845), p. 74; Sag 
Harbor Express, XIII (1872), no. 48. 

2 Statement of B. H. SiSson, Greenport, quoted by Goode, pp. 446-447 ; 
Long Island Traveler, XLIX (1870), no. 37; Long Island via the Long 
Island Railroad (1868), p. 25. 


Crude " factories," scarcely more ambitious than the 
"headquarters" of the "Coots" or the "Water Witches," 
began to appear on out-of-the-way stretches of the beach 
where their inevitable odor would offend as few as possi- 
ble. To the docks of these primitive establishments the 
fishing "companies" brought their catches. 1 The factory, 
on the one hand stimulating the ' ' bringing up of a hardy 
race of boatmen and sailors," brought also many people 
to the beach to do the necessary work on shore. It was 
the measure of the increasing pull of the sea. 

With the coming of the factory a second change began 
to manifest itself in the menhaden fishery. The rivalry 
of the fishing "companies" inevitably led to the seeking 
of the "bunkers" farther and farther off shore. Sloops 
and schooners, sometimes of twenty tons' burden, began 
to follow the schools on Long Island Sound, Gardiners 
Bay, and beyond. After the turn of the century, the occa- 
sional whaler, tacking in toward Sag Harbor, met the 
boats of the new fishery standing out to sea to search for 
"bunkers" on the broad ocean. To meet the demands of 
deep-sea fishing the purse net was invented. When a 
fishing schooner sighted a school, she veered her course 
and drew near. Two rowboats, each carrying half the 
net, would be lowered and a circle of net laid about the 
fish. While the upper edge of this floated on the water, 
the bottom would be quickly shirred together with the 
long ropes attached for that purpose. The "bunkers," 
caught in a great bag, found escape shut off on every side. 
The schooner then would tack alongside the circle of 
floating corks and, with a scoop net, transfer the catch 
to the great storage tank in the boat. Although some of 
the old seining companies remained, the day of their im- 
portance was passing, as many of their number aban- 

iGoode, pp. 446-447; New York State Census Report (1855), pp. 416- 
430; Sag Harbor Express, XIII (1872), no. 29. 


doned the beach for the ocean. Menhaden fishing, which 
had called many men to a new occupation at the waters 
edge, was now steadily drawing them out to the open 
water as the business shifted from an offshore to a deep- 
sea fishery. 1 

The advent of the oil factory came just at this time of 
change. The factory, however, was not, at first, the con- 
trolling agency in the business. The fishermen were inde- 
pendent and cast their seines and purse nets when and 
where they would. The factories, dependent upon the 
fishermen for their supply of fish, were forced to compete 
with one another in prices offered. 2 To ensure as steady 
and as cheap a supply of " bunkers' ' as possible, some 
owners developed what were called "floating factories," 
hulls of old ships remodeled and equipped with the 
requisite apparatus. These, towed along the shore, saved 
time and expense by following the movements of the fish. 3 
The primitive floating factory was an adaptation to the 
offshore phase of the fishery. It disappeared when shal- 
low water fishing declined. It was inevitable, under these 
circumstances, that factory owners should begin to chafe 
at their dependence upon the fishermen over whom they 
had no control. They began sending fishing boats of their 
own to sea. Within fifteen years after the founding of 
Wells's first establishment, a majority of the oil-making 
companies were sending out their own fleets. This change 
marked the practical disappearance of the independent 
fisherman. Most of his old i ' companies ' ' were broken up. 
He still went to sea to fish for menhaden, but now merely 
as one of the factors in an organization steadily growing 

i Goode, pp. 119-124. 

2 In 1873, the proprietors of the Barren Island factories formed a mutual 
benefit association and decided upon the price that they would pay for fish 
for the coming year. Sag Harbor Express, XIV (1873), no. 29. 

3 Goode, pp. 175-177. 


more complex. The risks of the fishery were shifted from 
his shoulders to those of the factory owner. 1 

During the first three decades of the "factory" phase 
of the menhaden business, a multitude of small oil-making 
establishments costing from ten to forty thousand dollars 
appeared along the north Atlantic shore. By 1877, the 
coast of Maine could boast fourteen factories of sufficient 
importance to be represented in the Maine Oil and Guano 
Association. Narragansett Bay supported thirteen con- 
cerns, of which nine were located at Tiverton. Farther to 
the west, five more dotted the Connecticut shore. An- 
other five prosecuted their business on the Jersey coast at 
Somers Point and Tuckerton. Four factories were scat- 
tered along the Chesapeake from Norfolk to Baltimore. 
Even at this time, however, when the business reached its 
greatest regional expansion, Long Island, with its multi- 
tude of shallow bays and sheltered harbors, was the most 
important centre. The first ten factories of the pioneers 
had increased to fifteen on the beaches of the east end 
with eight more on those of the southern shore. Al- 
though, here and there, an isolated plant could be found, 
nearly all of the Long Island establishments were claimed 
by three centres, Barren Island in Jamaica Bay, Sayville 
on Great South Bay, and, most important of all, Green- 
port and Shelter Island on Peconic Bay. 2 

During the period of multiplication of small factories, 
occurred a change which was destined to alter profoundly 
the development of the industry. A spirited competition 
between the fleets of rival factories sprang up. Longer 
and longer voyages southward were made, though the 
speed with which a very perishable product had to be 
brought to the factory from distant fishing grounds dis- 
tinctly limited the usefulness of the sailing ship. As 

i Goode, p. 189. 
2 Ibid., pp. 165-169. 


factories grew and competition increased, the advent of 
the steamer became inevitable. The new boat required 
a smaller crew to handle her and her greater speed 
enabled her to undertake longer trips than her sailing 
rival. The change to steam caused nothing less than a 
revolution in the menhaden oil business. The small 
manufacturer of the seventies could rarely afford to pur- 
chase and maintain a steamer which in many cases would 
cost more than his entire factory. He had neither the 
capital nor the volume of trade to warrant such an outlay. 
But the exigencies of competition in the deep-sea fishery 
could not be avoided. The steamer was forced upon him. 
The inevitable result was the consolidation of the small 
factories. By 1895, the sailing vessel had been practically 
driven from the water and the twenty-three Long Island 
factories of 1877 had been reduced to eight. These were 
located at two centres, Barren Island in Jamaica Bay and 
the treeless isthmus of Promised Land on the Montauk 
peninsula. 1 These larger concerns marked the beginning 
of a new phase of the menhaden fishery, characterized by 
a highly intelligent adaptation to the maritime environ- 
ment. Instead of waiting for the fish to come to the 
shallow offshore waters, small steamers pushed their 
prows well to the south and scanned every stretch of 
water where menhaden might be found. The sea had not 
only drawn the fisherman out from land but had greatly 
changed his method of work. 

The movement toward consolidation, fostered by the 
demands of the new deep-sea fishing was, however, not 
yet completed. On the morning of November 19, 1897, 
when the people of Greenport picked up their local paper, 
those interested in the menhaden fishery were dismayed 
to read the following announcement which came without 

iGoode, pp. 114-116; The New Long Island (1879), p. 22; Jamaica 
Farmer, XLIX (1870), no. 31; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LIV (1894), no. 313. 


the slightest warning: "A syndicate composed of English 
capitalists is negotiating for the purchase of the men- 
haden business at Promised Land. It proposes to buy 
the factories and the entire outfit, thus securing entire 
control of the menhaden business on eastern Long Island, 
and not only does this syndicate hope to obtain control of 
the Promised Land works, but it has also negotiated for 
the purchase of the National Oil and Guano Manufactur- 
ing Company, which has an office at Maiden Lane, New 
York, and is regarded as one of the most influential in the 
business. In fact it is believed that the syndicate pro- 
poses to corner the entire menhaden business of the At- 
lantic coast. The capitalists have offered the owners of 
the factories the privilege of selling out their business to 
the syndicate at a fair price or else run the risk of being 
frozen out, as they claim this will ultimately come, in due 
course of time. If the owners of the factories will not 
sell, the capitalists will then undertake the process of 
freezing out the individual owners. In order to do that 
they will secure a desirable harbor frontage, in the 
vicinity of the present factories, and then proceed to 
business. The capitalists claim to control a patent by 
which they can manufacture menhaden fertilizer with 
one-third less expense than is incurred according to the 
present method. In this manner they propose to freeze 
out the present owners, if they will not sell." 1 

This sudden assault upon the prosperous menhaden 
business brought consternation to the people. Disquiet- 
ing rumors ran from village to village along the coast. 
"Fishermen are asking who the syndicate is. Is it the 
Standard Oil Co., the Sugar Trust, or an English syndi- 
cate!" 2 Would the Maine and Rhode Island factories 
sell out? Families whose support depended upon the 

iLong Island Traveler, XXVII (1897), no. 12. 
*IUa, XXVII (1897), no. 17. 


business became fearful that, in the event of a change, 
things might not fare well with them. Deep indignation 
at the cold-blooded attack appeared in every quarter. 
Behind closed doors the factory owners considered the 
situation in all its aspects. They understood that they 
were face to face with a corporation whose capital was 
reported at ten millions of dollars and which was armed 
with an invention that would enable it to undersell the 
most efficient of the local manufacturers. It was inti- 
mated to them that, in the new concern, American as well 
as British money was involved and that the Standard Oil 
Company, wishing to turn certain of its waste products 
into a profitable lubricating grease by the addition of 
cheap menhaden oil, was the American firm interested. 1 
From November until February the owners considered 
the proposal. On the twenty-fifth of the latter month, all 
the important concerns yielded to the inevitable and, on 
that day, was consummated the final transfer of their 
properties to the American Fisheries Company. 2 With 
those of Long Island went practically all the factories of 
the Atlantic coast. The movement toward consolidation 
which had begun far back in the seventies now reached 
its dramatic culmination. 

The problem which, at the outset, confronted the Amer- 
ican Fisheries Company was of a distinctly geographical 
nature. Where should the great, new factories of the 
concern be located? The dominant factor in the problem 
was the annual migration of the menhaden schools from 
the warm waters of the Gulf region and from the deep 
sea up the Atlantic coast as far as Maine, a great north- 
flowing river of fish running roughly parallel to the Gulf 
Stream. The company decided to establish four oil-mak- 

i Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LVIII (1898), nos. 2, 5; Long Island Traveler, 
XXVII (1898), no. 23. 

2 Long Island Traveler, XXVII (1898), no. 26. 


ing centres from which steamers could be sent out to tap 
this living river. Delaware Bay in the south, Promised 
Land on eastern Long Island and Tiverton on Narragan- 
sett Bay at the centre, and the coast of Maine in the north 
were the locations chosen. Besides these an experimental 
factory was to be established on the Texas coast to try 
the possibilities of winter fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. 1 
Apparently because of its central location and its near- 
ness to New York, Promised Land was chosen for the 
headquarters of the company. The winter quarters for 
the fleet were sometimes at Greenport and sometimes at 
Tiverton across the Sound. The new company abolished 
competition. Long voyages to outdo rivals were no 
longer necessary because the factories of the concern had 
been so arranged as to divide the river of fish into seg- 
ments. When the new large steamers brought a greatly 
increased catch to the improved factories, adaptation to 
the peculiarities of the menhaden fishery was complete. 
The only problem that remained was whether the supply 
of fish could hold out in the face of such inroads. 

The reasons which had led to the concentration of the 
menhaden oil business of Long Island in one small locality 
at Promised Land were significant of certain important 
developments in the life of the Island. In the days of the 
early oil factories, establishments had been scattered at 
irregular intervals along the whole shore from Greenport 
to Jamaica Bay to utilize the fish which came to all those 
waters. By 1890, most of these concerns had moved to 
Promised Land in the east or to Barren Island in the 
west. After the coming of the American Fisheries Com- 
pany, the Barren Island factories were given up and the 
whole Long Island business carried on at the eastern 
station. There was another reason for this change aside 
from the shifting of the fishery to the deep sea. The odor 

iLong Island Traveler, XXVIII (1898), no. 2. 


of decaying fish that inevitably arose from the menhaden 
manufacturing establishment was exceedingly offensive. 
Unpleasant as this was, the factory of the early days, 
built on an out-of-the-way part of the beach, was allowed 
to stay because many of the men and women of the locality 
were dependent upon it for their living. When, however, 
the summer people of New York began to come to the 
beaches of Long Island in sufficient number to increase 
their value, the situation was changed and a struggle was 
precipitated between the factory owner and the inn- 
keeper. First to feel the new influence was the beautiful 
Shelter Island, from whose beaches the factories were 
expelled as early as 1872 by the strong arm of the law 
acting avowedly in defense of public health. 1 The story 
of Shelter Island was that of the whole Long Island coast. 
Everywhere, health officials began closing down or driv- 
ing out the factories as fast as the local inhabitants 
entered into the business of caring for the vacation people 
from the city. The question presented to the factory 
owner was where to go. Promised Land, a narrow bleak 
isthmus of sand with the sea pounding on either side, a 
land of no farms, no villages, and no summer people, 
offered a safe retreat and refuge. Attractive from its 
very unattractiveness, set far out upon the Montauk 
peninsula near which flowed the great menhaden stream, 
a railroad skirting its beach of sand dunes and finding a 
terminus a little more than half a hundred miles away in 
the greatest industrial centre in America, Promised Land 
formed the ideal location for the maker of fish oil. To 
this centre ultimately gravitated the whole of Long 
Island's great business and here the American Fisheries 
Company established headquarters. At least one section 
of the "Long Island Barrens' ' had come into its own. 

i Sag Earlor Express, XIII (1872), no. 46. 


Stretching along more than half the length of the south 
shore of Long Island is the broad lagoon, called Great 
South Bay enclosed by Fire Island Beach. In these quiet 
waters, sheltered from the storms of the Atlantic by a 
narrow, tenuous sand reef, oysters can live and beds of 
oysters find conditions suitable for growth. Here oyster- 
ing began in early times and has continued through many 
changes until the present. Crises and conflicts have 
marked its progress, the same crises and conflicts that 
have characterized the evolution of the business in the 
broader waters of the North Atlantic. The history of the 
oyster beds of Great South Bay is, on a small scale, the 
story of the development of the whole industry. For this 
reason, it seems worth while to consider this typical case 
before taking up the broader phases of the problem. 

He who would know when or where on Long Island the 
oyster industry began, when or where the red man first 
eked out his store of maize and game by gathering oysters 
from the neighboring waters must forever have his query 
unanswered. On the shore he may stand beside the occa- 
sional piles of weathered shells that the Indian heaped 
together, but shell piles have no dates. The first white 
men left no better records. Not until 1680, when Jasper 
Danckaerts toured the region around the Hudson, is a 
reference to be discovered: "We found good oysters in 
the creek inside [Coney Island] and ate some of them." 
At another time Danckaerts went oystering at Gawanus. 1 

i Jasper Danckaerts, Journal, pp. 172, 174. 


It can scarcely be said that there was an oyster industry 
at this time. Although the taking of the bivalve was ap- 
parently common in some waters, it was subordinate to 
other forms of activity of the early settler. Throughout 
the eighteenth century the farmer or the artisan gathered 
oysters, as he would go fishing or hunting. Men living 
by the sea, went out to take what nature offered. The 
oysterman had not yet appeared. 

The growth and expansion of the oyster business in 
the old days depended directly upon discovery. Large 
natural beds existed in Great South Bay, Narragansett 
Bay, and Long Island Sound, veritable mines of marine 
wealth, but they were of no service until discovery made 
them known. Usually the locating of these was purely a 
matter of accident, for there is no evidence to show sys- 
tematic searching for new areas. The large bed off Blue 
Point in Great South Bay was one of the first big finds in 
the history of the Long Island business. Before the be- 
ginning of the nineteenth century this field had been 
opened up and was being worked. The century was not 
many years old when the catch from this area had ob- 
tained sufficient prominence in the markets of the time 
to give to a product of superior quality the name which 
has lasted to the present, "Blue Point' ' oyster. It was 
the discovery of this rich bed that marked the beginning 
of organized oyster fishing in Great South Bay. 1 

The manner of working the Blue Point field was char- 
acteristic of the methods universally employed early in 
the business. The industry was in its ' ' collection stage ' ' ; 
men seized the wealth they found and took no thought for 
the future to prevent its becoming exhausted. The very 
slight amount of capital required for the successful prose- 
cution of the business merely made unbridled exploitation 

i Hopson, An Essay on the Oyster Industry (1885), p. 49; Thompson, 
I, 441. 


the more easy. An open rowboat and a pair of simple 
"tongs," two iron-toothed rakes with long handles, were 
practically all the equipment necessary. The "barons" 
of this early business "tonged" the bottom from the 
magnificent vantage point of catboats or small sharpies, 
but even these were not unduly costly. Few men were so 
poor as to be unable to procure the necessary tools, and 
the business required little skill on the part of the work- 
man. The result was inevitable. An ever increasing 
group of men appeared who depended for their subsist- 
ence upon the products of the waters of the bay. They 
were called "baymen." The name has remained. They 
were a rugged type of men who braved the weather at all 
seasons in open boats. For nine months they lived on the 
profits derived from the oyster beds, and depended for 
the other three upon clamming and fishing. They were 
poor for the most part, but independent, masters of their 
own time and tools. In the early hours of the day a fleet 
of these baymen could be seen putting off from the coves 
and inlets that lined the shores. During the morning, the 
bay would be dotted with anchored rowboats and sail- 
boats. In each of these were men leaning over the sides, 
lifting by hard manual labor bushel after bushel of 
bivalves from the bottom. It was slow work, for the 
tongs were clumsy and their load was small. From time 
to time the boats would shift their positions as the oys- 
ters were cleaned from the areas underneath. By the 
middle of the afternoon these small craft, piled high with 
the day's catch, would move toward shore to moor along 
the oyster wharves, where the product was taken out and 
opened. The business was simple and profitable. Season 
after season, the number of the baymen increased and the 
villages of the oystermen along the shore felt the stimu- 
lus of a vigorous industry. But it did not last. The bed 
was small and its product limited. The closer and closer 


tonging of each succeeding year brought signs of exhaus- 
tion. Not many years had passed until exploitation 
proved fatal. In 1824, appeared the ominous record that 
Blue Point in Brookhaven had formerly been noted for 
its oyster fisheries. 1 

The history of the exploitation of the Blue Point beds 
is a story quite characteristic of the American of the first 
half of the nineteenth century, as is also the way in which 
the loss of such a bed was remedied. When the Blue 
Point oysterman set out to win back his failing business, 
he found fortune ready to make amends for his lack of 
foresight. He began to look for new beds and found them 
almost at his own door. The exploring of the next forty 
years brought to light a great area, twenty-three miles in 
length, extending from Smith's Point to Nicoll's Point, 
which was practically one huge oyster field. As long as 
the oyster industry remained in this primitive collection 
stage, just so long the growth and expansion of the busi- 
ness depended directly upon the discovery of such new 
beds. 2 

This huge Great South Bay field was a mine of wealth 
indeed, the exploitation of which brought fat years to the 
south shore bayman. Local villages were stirred into life 
and population grew. The oyster centre shifted from 
Blue Point to Patchogue. 3 Here began to be built a large 
cluster of packing houses. Others were established at 
different points along the shore. The packing house be- 

i Spafford, Gazatteer of the State of New York (1824), p. 61. The stand- 
ard work on the oyster is Kellogg, Shell Fish Industries (1910). The work 
is primarily biological though it contains a useful description of the present 

2 New York State Commissioner of Fisheries, Eeport (1885), pp. 49-57. 
Other natural beds in Long Island waters were found in Oyster Bay, Hunt- 
ington Harbor, Hempstead Bay, Smithtown Bay, off Eaton's Neck, Shinne- 
cock Bay, Mecox Bay, and Jamaica Bay. 

3 Long Island via the Long Island Bailroad (1868), p. 54; Long Island 
and Where to Go (1877), p. 215. 


came, in fact, the very heart of the early organization of 
the industry. To its docks the bayman every day brought 
his loaded boat and sold his catch. Under its roof the 
oysters were "shucked" and the " meats' ' put in gallon 
and half -gallon wooden kegs. From its doors reached out 
the distributing system which carried the product to its 
markets. 1 There were two of these, New York City and 
the local Long Island villages and countryside. To sup- 
ply the latter trade two agencies were employed. One 
was the peddling wagon, which not only supplied the kegs 
of oysters to the country stores but also stopped, like the 
horn-blowing fishman of the interior, at the homes of the 
individual consumers. 2 The other was the small sailing 
boat that beat its way along the shore, putting in at vil- 
lages, like Sag Harbor, where oysters were not found, and 
selling its wares from the open boat to the housewives 
who came down to the shore to buy. 3 Although the local 
trade was important, the great market was New York 
City. Into this centre tons of oysters were poured, some 
shipped over the old main line of the Long Island Rail- 
road, others carried by fleets of small sloops, and still 
others hauled overland in wagons. In the development of 
the packing house and its auxiliary distributing and sell- 
ing systems, the organization of the oyster industry in 
its exploitation stage reached its culmination. This 
organization had hardly been brought to perfection, how- 
ever, when a change came over the business bringing 
results of the utmost consequence. 

The new factor was the invention of the dredge. Like 
the tongs, the dredge was simple in construction and easy 

i Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LIII (1893), no. 11. For an account of the 
highly developed packing houses of Chesapeake Bay, see The Oysterman, 
III (1906), no. 47. 

2 Long Island Farmer, XV (1848), no. 42. 

3 Sag Harbor Express, XV (1877), no. 24. 


to use. A long bag of steel rings woven together and a 
month held open by a steel frame were the essential parts. 
A broad iron lip, scraping along the bottom, scooped in 
the oysters and a cable and windlass lifted the full dredge 
into the boat. In principle, the new invention was merely 
an adaptation of the fisherman's dragnet. The important 
qualities of the dredge were two. Its cheapness put it 
within reach of practically every bayman. Its efficiency 
enabled its owner to gather oysters at greatly increased 
speed and with a minimum of manual labor. There could 
be but one result. Every bayman who owned a sailboat 
went to the slight expense of installing a windlass and 
dredge, while his more humble brother of the open boat 
planned to save enough capital to buy the necessary sail- 
ing craft and fittings. By 1860, the new tool was almost 
universally employed. 1 

During the decade from 1860 to 1870, the dredge 
brought boom times to Great South Bay. Yields hitherto 
undreamed of were taken from the beds, as new areas, 
where the water had been too deep for tonging, were 
opened up. The profits of the baymen grew and, natu- 
rally, their numbers increased. 2 . The prospects of the bay 
never seemed brighter. In reality, however, the pros- 
perity was hollow. By 1870, too many men were working 
the Great South Bay beds and too many oysters were 
being taken from them. The story of the Blue Point fields 
was being repeated on a vastly larger scale. Unregulated 
exploitation was bringing unmistakable signs of exhaus- 
tion. Natural increase could not make good the losses to 
the dredge. No new beds, such as those which had saved 
the Blue Point baymen, remained to be opened up. Ex- 
pansion by discovery had come to an end. The means of 

i Sag Harbor Express, I (1859), no. 14. 

2 Long Island and Where to Go (1877), p. 54; French, Gazatteer of the 
State of New YorTc (1860), pp. 544, 632. 


livelihood for whole communities was threatened. People 
interested in the oyster business cast about for a cause to 
explain the impending disaster. The one hit upon was 
the most obvious though not the most vital. It was the 
dredge. On April 15, 1870, an act was passed by local 
authorities forbidding the use of anything but tongs in 
the taking of oysters from the public beds of Great South 
Bay. 1 In an effort to check the destruction of the oyster 
fields the lawmakers deemed it necessary to take a step 
backward in the management of the business. 

This partial checking of exploitation, however, held out 
to the bayman but an indifferent prospect. During the 
full years of prosperity, while he was reaping the bounty 
of the great natural beds, a danger had arisen that had 
been little heeded. A competitor to the bayman appeared 
in the person of the oyster planter. Year by year, after 
1865, this personage had been quietly leasing and bring- 
ing under cultivation more and more bay bottom. Many 
of the more progressive baymen were drawn into the new 
business. By 1870, oyster culture on privately leased 
land had become firmly established. 2 The law which for- 
bade the bayman to use the dredge on the public beds did 
not apply to the privately managed fields of the new 
planter. The bayman must give up a highly valued ad- 
vantage which his rival was permitted to retain. The 
smaller catches and lessened income which resulted when 
he took up again the long unused tongs, showed him the 
difficulty of competing with his more powerful and better 
equipped rival. It touched his pride of independence to 
go into the contest with one hand tied. But if he refused 
to give up the dredge, he brought speedy and inevitable 
destruction to those very beds on which his living de- 
pended. He stood between Scylla and Charybdis. 

i Hough, Gazatteer of the State of New York (1872), p. 634. 
2 Sag Harbor Express, XIII (1871), no. 23. 


Oysters will grow and mature in waters in which they 
cannot breed. Upon this characteristic of the bivalve the 
business of oyster planting rests. The oyster farmer gets 
embryo oysters, "seed" as they are called, bred where 
conditions are favorable, and "plants" them on his fields. 
These fields have been prepared by covering them thickly 
with oyster shells, making a hard, smooth surface to which 
the "seed" can attach itself when it settles to the bottom. 
The period of maturing lasts from two to four years. The 
typical oyster farm is divided into four divisions, one of 
which is dredged clean and planted again each year. 

Oyster planting began in America in 1855. In that 
year, the state of New York recognized by law for the 
first time property rights in sea-bottom land used for 
the raising of oysters. No rights could be had in "natu- 
ral" beds where the bivalve bred and grew of its own 
accord, but "unproductive" areas where no oysters were 
to be found could be taken up and leased. The law had 
hardly been placed on the statute books when the first 
attempts at oyster culture were made off City Island, 
near New York. The venture was successful and the busi- 
ness spread. It worked its way into New York Bay and 
expanded along the Connecticut shore. 1 In 1865, with the 

i In the early days of oyster planting in Long Island Sound most of the 
seed was obtained from the beds of the Chesapeake. When this tract de- 
clined, the seed was secured from favorably located beds along the Con- 
necticut shore. The planters of Great South Bay obtained their seed, at 
first, from Maryland and later from Connecticut. 


passage of a Queens County ordinance, it entered Great 
South Bay. Then began the struggle between the oyster 
planter and the bayman, the method of cultivation and 
that of exploitation. 

The Queens County law, as was the custom of the time, 
limited the planter to three acres. 1 Although he could 
avoid this stipulation by taking out leases in the names of 
his wife and children, he could not acquire holdings of any 
considerable size. Such a system was not conducive to 
the rapid growth of oyster culture for the reason that a 
larger farm, of one hundred or two hundred acres, could 
be managed to better advantage than a small one. Hold- 
ings of three, six, or nine acres were too small to occupy 
the full time of the oysterman or of his sloop and dredge, 
with the result that he, together with his equipment, had 
either to lie idle part of the time or be employed at other 
tasks. It was but natural that, when his own fields were 
cared for, he should join the baymen in the working of 
the natural beds. It was inevitable that some of the more 
progressive among the latter should make the easy transi- 
tion and set themselves up as small planters. In this way, 
in spite of the handicap of the three-acre system, oyster 
planting steadily spread in Great South Bay. Between 
1865 and 1871, twelve hundred acres of unproductive bay 
bottom were turned into oyster farms. 2 There were many 
times when these aggressive farmers were scarcely more 
than within the border of the law. No bay bottom where 
natural beds occurred could legally be leased. The new 
planter, however, many times staked out areas tempo- 
rarily exhausted by excessive dredging, with the plea that 
because there were no oysters in the area it did not come 
under the legal definition of a natural bed. The success 
of this plea brought dismay to the bayman. 

i Hough, Gazatteer of the State of New York (1872), p. 546. 
2 Sag Harbor Express, XIII (1871), no. 23. 


The bayman girded up his loins for combat. In 1871, 
an indignation meeting was held to oppose the carrying 
out of the oyster-leasing law on the ground that, ignoring 
the poor man, it gave the business into the hands of 
monopolists. 1 Two years later stronger action was taken. 
A petition was drawn up and presented "To the Honor- 
able the Board of Trustees of the Town of Brookhaven." 
The paper reads as follows: "We the oystermen and 
baymen of Great South Bay, petition your venerable body 
to cease leasing lots for planting oysters in said bay by 
private individuals after April 1st, 1875. Our reasons for 
asking this are, that the ground most prolific for the 
natural growth of oysters is staked in and we are de- 
prived of the means of gaining a living for ourselves 
and families. If your honorable body accedes to our 
request, we are willing ... to pay a toleration fee of five 
dollars a year after the ground now leased is open to all 
oystermen paying said toleration fee." 2 The petition, 
however, came too late. The planters had more influence 
with the board of trustees than did the baymen. Instead 
of being checked, oyster planting steadily increased. In 
less than a decade, the oyster farmers were claiming an 
output equal in amount to that of the whole community of 
baymen. This change brought its inevitable result. The 
three-acre regulation broke down. In 1879, the township 
of Brookhaven modified this ordinance in such a way as 
to permit both the leasing of large areas and the organiza- 
tion of incorporated companies to carry on the business. 3 

Acting under the provisions of the law of 1879, indi- 
vidual farmers began to build up holdings, running some- 
times into hundreds of acres. Some small companies, 

i Jamaica Farmer, L (1871), no. 43. 

2 Sag Harbor Express, XV (1873), no. 24. 

3 New York State Commissioner of Fisheries, Report (1885), pp. 49-57. 


controlled by local capital, came into existence, but these 
were neither large nor numerous. If the decade from 
1850 to 1860 had been marked by the almost exclusive 
control of the oyster business by the bayman, that from 
1880 to 1890 was characterized by the predominance of 
the individual planter. By 1890, twenty-five packing 
houses were to be found scattered along the south shore. 
The principal shipping points on the bay were Babylon, 
Bay Shore, Oakdale, Sayville, and Patchogue. Out of 
these villages between sixty and seventy thousand barrels 
of oysters were shipped every year, forty thousand to 
the New York market and the rest to supply the new and 
growing trade with Europe. Nothing in the old days of 
exploitation could surpass such an output. Oyster plant- 
ing had come to stay. 1 

Such success attracted attention. The growth of the 
new business was watched. By the beginning of the nine- 
ties, interested parties were convinced that large corpora- 
tions could be made profitable in Great South Bay. The 
economy which large-scale organizations would effect was 
important. The producing branch of the business could 
be united with the packing and distributing branch. For- 
merly the bayman and, later, the oyster farmer had sold 
to the packing company. If the packing company and the 
planter should become one, the middleman's profit would 
be saved. The scheme had already been successful on the 
Connecticut shore, where corporations had erected large 
' i shucking houses ' ' and had established regular markets 
for their products. In 1891, three large companies, sup- 
posed to be backed by New York capital, made their ap- 
pearance in Great South Bay. Two thousand acres were 
at once leased outright. Oystering in southern Long 

i Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LI (1891), no. 261; LILT (1893), nos. 11, 321; 
New York State Commissioner of Fisheries, Eeport (1885), pp. 49-57. 


Island waters entered upon the last phase of its develop- 
ment. 1 

The new companies promptly introduced the most im- 
portant improvement in the oyster business subsequent to 
the dredge. The rowboat of the early tongers had de- 
veloped into the small sloop with a single drag attached. 
This sailing craft had grown in size until two dredges 
were dropped over the sides and a considerable crew was 
required for the handling. The sailboat, however, was 
at the mercy of calm and storm and, moreover, wasted 
much time in coming about, a manoeuvre frequently neces- 
sary in dredging fields with fixed boundaries. In 1894, 
the first oyster steamer made its appearance on Great 
South Bay. The Curiosity was its name but the hostile 
baymen dubbed it Hell's Wagon. The Curiosity was a 
vessel sixty feet long, eighteen feet wide, and four feet 
deep and was built at a cost of five thousand dollars. It 
used six dredges and was manned by a crew consisting 
of a captain and four men. Its owners estimated that the 
new boat would do in a day six times the work of an ordi- 
nary sailing boat. Significantly enough the first large 
corporation and the first oyster steamer appeared on 
Great South Bay at almost the same time. It is also 
significant that the baymen named the new boat Hell's 
Wagon. This name measured the competition they were 
compelled to face. 2 

With the appearance of the large corporation in Great 
South Bay, the troubles which had long beset the path of 
the bayman reached their climax. Between the competi- 
tion of the planter, on the one hand, and the growing ex- 
haustion of his beds, on the other, he fought a losing fight. 
In 1883, when a crisis seemed imminent, he appealed to 
the ballot and won. A board of "free bay" trustees was 

i Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LI (1891), no. 261. 
2 Ibid., LIV (1894), no. 329. 


elected in the township of Brookhaven. These men, acting 
in the interests of their constituents, passed at once an 
ordinance forbidding the further granting of oyster 
leases in Great South Bay. 1 The victory, however, was 
short-lived. It seems that the trustees had exceeded their 
power. Within a year, they were forced to rescind the 
measure. After such a setback, the bayman stood power- 
less before his enemies. In 1891, the rumor ran up and 
down the south shore that the new corporation had ob- 
tained options on about eight thousand acres of bay- 
bottom, including some of the best natural beds that were 
left. The bayman 's answer was immediate. A protective 
league was formed to resist the aggression. William Un- 
derwood of Patchogue seems to have been the leader in 
the movement. 2 The legality of the leases obtained by 
the corporation was uncertain on account of a conflict 
over the title to the bay -bottom. Underwood, followed 
by others, trespassed on the land claimed by the com- 
panies and stood trial in defense of his rights. Feeling 
ran high and the court rooms were packed. The baymen 
stoutly maintained that, no matter what were the uncer- 
tainties of the title, the " oyster barons' ' had no legal 
or moral right to lease beds where oysters naturally grew. 
After five years of litigation, the New York State Court 
of Appeals handed down a decision in favor of Under- 
wood. 3 Although the victory saved the beds for the 
future, in reality, it came too late. In 1893, the natural 
oyster fields gave out. For three years there was prac- 
tically no catch. 4 The crisis, long impending, had, at last, 
arrived. A numerous population found itself without its 
customary means of support. The result was inevitable. 

i New York Commissioner of Fisheries, Eeport (1885), pp. 55-57. 
* Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LI (1891), no. 261; LII (1892), nos. 135, 261; 
LIII (1893), no. 358. 

*Ioia., LVI (1896), no. 51. 
*Ilia., LVII (1897), no. 210. 


A lawless and irresponsible group among the defeated 
baymen made use of the last resort. In the year 1893, 
piracy, for the first time, raised its head in Great South 
Bay. "Down at Sayville on the Great South Bay armed 
men are patrolling the shore and a cannon is held in readi- 
ness to blow out of the water the first piratical craft that 
appears. Although three battles have already occurred, 
the first on Sunday night, the second on Tuesday, and the 
third on Wednesday, the pirates are as bold as ever. . . . 
One incident of the Wednesday night attack is especially 
noteworthy. Near midnight five sloops appeared on the 
beds . . . and notwithstanding the outcry from the shore, 
went to work dredging. The watchmen gathered together 
and fired volley upon volley at the pirates, but to no pur- 
pose. Finally a steam launch was brought into play. 
Lights were lowered and at full speed the launch was 
driven at the nearest sloop. But the damage was trifling, 
and the poachers with their pistols made the atmosphere 
so warm that the steam craft was compelled to beat an 
ignominious retreat. . . . [The watchmen] realized that 
it would be folly to attempt to board one of the piratical 
sloops, for they are well provided with shotguns and 
revolvers and, moreover, the crews are expert in the use 
of the oyster knife. . . . Thousands of bushels have been 
taken under cover of the night. . . . The pirates are said 
to live in the neighborhood of Patchogue and Blue 
Point." 1 

The planters at once pooled a thousand dollars to dis- 
cover the authors of the violence. They aroused the fierce 
resentment of the community by trying to implicate Un- 
derwood, the Daymen's leader. Detectives were retained 
and information sought. No culprits, however, were 
found and nothing important was accomplished. Gradu- 
ally the trouble blew over. The pirates seem never to 

^Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LIII (1893), no. 352. 


have returned to threaten again the property of Great 
South Bay. Well might the oyster planter rest content to 
let the wrongdoers go unpunished. The most desperate 
among the baymen had made their last stand and had lost. 
Although men continued to take oysters from the natural 
oyster beds, the importance of the bayman was gone. 
Organized industry, as must inevitably be the case, had 
won. But, how costly in human struggle and suffering 
had the victory been! Progress, as always, had aban- 
doned the man who could not maintain the pace. 

The story of oystering in Great South Bay is, in minia- 
ture, that of the whole Atlantic coast. This general re- 
gional development can be sketched in a few words. Since 
the business began, two great oystering centres have 
existed, one in Chesapeake Bay and the waters of the 
Virginia estuaries, and the other in Long Island Sound 
and neighboring harbors. The business of Great South 
Bay was, in reality, a part of that of this northern area. 
The history of the two regions has, in many ways, been 
different, but the same principles have underlain the 
development of each. 

In the beginning the Chesapeake beds were the larger 
and the richer of the two areas. The broad estuary at the 
mouth of the Potomac boasted some of the finest and most 
extensive natural beds in the world. ' ' Oyster bars ' ' they 
were called. Hundreds and thousands of baymen, 
equipped with tongs or with dredges, supported them- 
selves by the catch obtained from these waters. In 1840, 
Maryland alone produced eight hundred thousand 
bushels. In 1870, the figure had risen to nine millions, 
and in 1884 the culmination was reached in the unparal- 
leled figure of fifteen million bushels. This output was 
the product of the same methods of exploitation that had 
characterized the early years of the Great South Bay 
fields. So rich and so inexhaustible did the beds appear 


to be, that oyster farming could not seem to gain a foot- 
bold. 1 

Exploitation, however, brought its inevitable reward 
and exhaustion began to appear. By 1890, the output had 
fallen from fifteen to ten million bushels. In 1900, the 
decline had reached the five million mark, and four years 
later it was still smaller. Many solutions for so serious a 
situation were proposed, prominent among them being 
anti-dredge laws like those tried years before in Great 
South Bay. But the Maryland legislators looked deeper 
than the surface. They sought to remove the disorder at 
its very root. In 1906, the Haman-Seth law was enacted, 
providing for the establishment of oyster culture. In 
1912, acting under the provisions of this statute, Mary- 
land began a detailed survey of all the waters of the state 
which was to be made the basis for the allotment of oyster 
leases. Even in the famous beds of the Chesapeake, there- 
fore, cultivation had at last superseded exploitation. 2 

The story of the Long Island Sound development was 
a very different one. In these waters the natural beds, 
compared with those in Maryland, were small. If the 
industry were to grow here, the amount of oyster land 
must be artificially increased. This necessity gave rise 
to the planting method and forced that method to its 
greatest possible efficiency. Individual planters and small 
companies made an early appearance. As the Connecti- 
cut shore fields presented the best opportunities, the 
oyster companies of that region came to be the strongest. 
By 1890, Norwalk, Bridgeport, and New Haven had be- 
come the most important oyster centres in the North 
Atlantic. In each of these cities appeared one or more 
great companies, head and shoulders above the rest, cor- 

i United States Coast Geodetic Survey, Summary of Surveys of the Oys- 
ter Bars of Maryland (1909-1912), plate facing page 9. 
2 Ibid, pp. 9-10; The Oysterman, III (1906), no. 30. 


porations employing ten or a dozen large steamers and 
controlling thousands of acres. Gradually, these large 
concerns, imitated to a less extent by their smaller com- 
petitors, pushed their way into other waters. Narragan- 
sett Bay was invaded. The north shore of Long Island, 
Oyster Bay, Hempstead Bay, Northport harbor, and the 
rest began also to feel the Connecticut influence. Plants 
subsidiary to those across the Sound appeared upon Long 
Island shores, and shipping stations for the Connecticut 
products were established in Long Island villages. 1 

Great South Bay was far enough away to be at first 
comparatively free from this influence. In fact, com- 
panies of that region after they had settled the competi- 
tion of the baymen, began a campaign of expansion and 
conquest into other waters. When, in 1899, it became 
known that Peconic Bay, with its large unoccupied area, 
could be turned into successful oyster land, a sharp com- 
petition arose between Connecticut interests and those of 
Great South Bay for the purpose of acquiring the best 
bottom in that region. 2 But the struggle could not be 
long, for the Connecticut corporations were larger and 
more powerful. Their expansion continued until, in 1910, 
one of the largest among them made its appearance in 
Great South Bay itself. 

Although the bayman and the small oyster farmer still 
exist both in Connecticut and Long Island, consolidation 
and expansion have put the controlling influence into the 
hands of the great companies. These, with few excep- 
tions, have their headquarters on the southern New Eng- 
land shore. Important as it is, the Long Island industry 
has, to a large extent, become an adjunct to that of 

i The Oysterman, III (1905), nos. 3, 4. 

2 Long Island Traveler, XXVIII (1899), no. 38; The Oysterman, III 
(1905), nos. 4, 17, 18, 21. 


One who chances to stroll along the sandy beaches of 
Peconic Bay may pick up many a round, convex shell with 
a beautiful system of grooves radiating from the hinge 
at the side. It is the shell of one of the smaller bivalves 
that lives in shallow, offshore waters and is known as the 
scallop. The organism is relatively rare. The oyster and 
the plebeian clam can be found in small quantities almost 
anywhere along the coast, but with the scallop it is differ- 
ent. A few beaches on the coast of Maine, the Cape Cod 
hook, Buzzards Bay, Narragansett Bay, the northern 
shore of Long Island, and Peconic Bay are the regions 
where scallop beds exist. 1 Even these are not large. 
There are, in fact, no great scallop fields to compare with 
the vast areas of natural oyster beds which once were 
found so commonly along the Atlantic coast. Conse- 
quently, the scallop has never become, like the oyster, a 
great food staple. Its consumption has largely been 
limited to the villages and cities of the coast. For this 
reason the industry is obscure and the term, ' ' scalloper, ' ' 
heard so much at the eastern end of Long Island, conveys 
little meaning a score of miles inland. 

The beginnings of scalloping, like the beginnings of oys- 
tering, are lost in the obscurity of the past. Certainly, as 
long ago as the latter years of the eighteenth century, this 
bivalve was caught and used in America. 2 But no one 

i Kellogg, pp. 336, 339. 
2 Smithtown Records, 136. 


knows how much earlier the industry may have appeared. 
The earliest records give a picture not of origins but of 
a fishery fully developed. With this the enquirer must 
be content. The story of the Maine coast beds is a tale 
of fluctuation and irregular output. The unexpected find- 
ing of a bed, the flocking of baymen from far and near to 
share the profits, and the speedy exhaustion of the area 
form the greater part of the history of Maine scallop- 
ing. 1 The record of the beds of Cape Cod and of Rhode 
Island is much the same. But for the sheltered waters at 
the east end of the Island the story is quite different. 
Here, in Peconic Bay, is to be found one of the largest 
and most productive of the scallop areas of the North 

The account of the finding of the Peconic scallop field 
has come down to us in the form of a local legend. Per- 
haps it was 1857, perhaps in the sixties, that one day a 
lone, mysterious schooner appeared on the waters of the 
bay off New Suffolk. The small craft began to beat slowly 
back and forth across the bay, dredging. Curiosity seized 
the people of the little village and boats put off to learn 
for what the stranger was searching. He showed a catch 
of scallops and, in answer to further questions, said that 
he was from Connecticut. Coming in he taught the people 
to open the valves and to take out and throw away the 
soft visceral parts of the organism, leaving only the great 
flexor muscle to be used for food. With the imparting of 
this information, he seems to have sailed away and left 
the villagers to profit by his discovery. Not long after 
this event, an ex-whaler of New Suffolk, left without a 
livelihood by the decline of the whale fishery, became in- 
terested in the possibilities of the find and dredged some 
scallops, which he sent to a commission merchant in New 
York City. In a few days the merchant wrote back that 

i The Oysterman and Fisherman, XIII (1915), no. 1. 


the product had spoiled because no one would buy the 
new article. He asked the ex-whaler, however, to send 
down some more for which he would try to create a de- 
mand. In this way scalloping in Peconic Bay began. 1 

At first the new business grew slowly, for it had to 
offer sufficient profit to divert men from other occupa- 
tions. But as the possibilities for marketing the product 
increased it expanded. Farmers from the neighboring 
countryside began to spend some of the fall and winter 
days dredging the beds. During the height of the season, 
local fishermen often left their nets for a time to take a 
hand in the work. A few ex-whalers from Sag Harbor, in 
search of something to do, drifted into scalloping. The 
beds were rich and the number of dredgers increased. In 
1873, a local paper informed its readers that ' ' over 5000 
bushels of scallops have been taken in Peconic Bay during 
the fall season, ' ' a catch that enabled the ' ' scallopers ' ' to 
coin "the almighty dollars by the hundreds." 2 Even at 
this early time the centre of the industry was at the little 
village of New Suffolk where "scallops and cauliflowers 
reign supreme. ' ' The lean years were relatively few, and 
more and more men became interested. Boats began to 
come to the fields from Greenport, East Marion, Shelter 
Island, Orient, Sag Harbor, and, at a later time, from 
Jamesport and Riverhead. "Eastern scallopers," prob- 
ably from Maine or Massachusetts, migrating to Green- 
port, had, by 1894, swelled the number of vessels from 
that locality to thirty. Besides the men from the east, 
there came also, in the nineties, a number of baymen from 
Great South Bay seeking a means for making a livelihood 
which would take the place of that lost by the exhaustion 
of the public oyster fields of that region. By 1895, the 

i Reminiscences of George I. Tuthill, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LX (1900), 
no. 277. 

2 Sag Harbor Express, XV (1873), no. 23. 


scallop fleet had grown until, during the height of the 
season, two hundred boats worked, day after day, back 
and forth across the fields. "The bay presents a lively 
appearance at times as white-winged craft from all sec- 
tions roam over the beds. ' n 

Long before the close of the nineteenth century, the 
simple organization of the primitive scallop industry had 
been completely developed. It bore a close resemblance 
to the oyster business in its early exploitation stage. In 
both cases there was an open and a closed season ; in both 
industries the dredge was used. Most of the small cat- 
boats and sloops that made up the scallop fleet had origi- 
nally been built for the baymen of Great South Bay, and, 
having been discarded by them on account of the exhaus- 
tion of their oyster fields, had been sold to the "scal- 
lopers" of Peconic Bay. The two industries were alike, 
moreover, in the actual method of conducting the fishery. 
Long before sunrise, during the busy days of the season, 
the boats of the scallop fleet could be seen shoving off 
from their small docks and putting down the bay to the 
beds. Each little craft carried two dredges, and was 
manned, usually, by two men who worked as partners. 
During the hours of the morning, the boats beat slowly 
back and forth over the field with both dredges over the 
side. These were dragged one just before the other, the 
first to clear away the seaweed from the bottom and the 
second to gather up the shellfish. Before noon, most of 
the craft returned to dock with the day's catch, which 
sometimes amounted to a hundred and fifty bushels. On 
the beach could be found clusters of small, weather-beaten 
sheds, the " scallop houses.' ' No one of them was more 
than twelve or fifteen feet on a side. Each had a little 
pier at which, about noon, the scallop boat drew up to turn 

iLong Island Traveler, XXIII (1893), no. 5; XXIV (1894), no. 4; 
XXVI (1897), no. 36; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LIV (1894), no. 299. 


the catch over to the "openers." A shed was used by a 
particular boat and the building was either owned or 
rented by the two partners who ran the boat. Standing 
in this structure before a broad shelf piled high with scal- 
lops, were to be seen the men, women, and children who 
were opening the shells. With incredible swiftness and 
dexterity they would force apart the valves, clear away 
the soft viscera and cut the great muscle from its hold. 
A few cents a gallon for the "meats" was the usual pay 
to the i ' opener, ' ' and, at this rate, a swift girl, during the 
busy season, could make good wages. The "meats" were 
packed in tubs and shipped to New York or the coast 
towns of New England. 

For twenty-five years and more this organization has 
undergone no material change. The reason for this is a 
simple one. The oyster is sedentary and will stay where 
placed, but the scallop is not so dependable. Slowly and 
laboriously this organism can swim in a zigzag sort of 
way by the sudden forcing out of water resulting from a 
quick closing of the shells. "Jet propulsion," the biolo- 
gists call it. By such a crude method of locomotion whole 
beds can migrate and will change their location from year 
to year. Until, therefore, some cheap and practicable 
scheme for enclosing a scallop field can be devised that 
winter storms will not tear down, planting, comparable to 
oyster planting, will be impossible, and the business must 
remain a simple, exploitative industry. 

The scalloper, himself, is as picturesque a shore figure 
as any to be found on the coast. His business is a pre- 
carious one and the stakes of the gamble are the support 
of himself and the welfare of his home. Even though he 
take thought, he cannot predict from one year to another 
how large the scallop crop will be. If the fields chance to 
be fruitful, his life is easy and his pockets well lined, but, 
if fortune does not smile, he is plunged into want. Accus- 


tomed to the risks of the sea in an open boat, he faces the 
risks of his calling with equanimity. The joys and cares 
of each day are sufficient and each morrow must look out 
for itself. As money comes easy, when the season is good, 
so easy it goes when the season is done. Often it happens 
that, by the time the beds are worked out, the wolf is again 
at the door. But the pride of his departed wealth still 
lingers. Known to have made many dollars a day on the 
water, he will rarely stoop to labor for a few paltry shil- 
lings on land. So it happens that when the lean months 
follow the months of plenty the scalloper still puts out to 
sea. Sometimes he turns to digging clams or catching 
crabs by way of occupation. More often, however, he 
goes off in his small sloop to spend his days in dredging 
4 'jingle shells." On the beach he heaps together great 
piles of these and sells them for a few cents a bushel to the 
oyster planters, who spread them over their beds to give 
a hard, smooth surface on which the tiny ' ' seed ' ' oysters 
may settle. Dredging scallops and "jingle shells," with 
a little clamming and fishing, makes up the round of life 
for this denizen of the shore. Poor but independent, liv- 
ing from hand to mouth, rugged and weather-beaten, the 
scalloper of Peconic Bay is still with us. Long may his 
beds remain fruitful ! 

There are few things about the sea that have appealed 
more to the imagination than the fisherman. The risks 
and the uncertainties which are the sport of the angler 
are the very foundations upon which he builds his life. 
The storms which, year by year, alter the beach line bring 
also changes to his villages. To the shores of Long Island 
the rich waters of the north Atlantic have drawn many 
people who spend their lives gathering the products of 
the ocean. The stories of many of these fisheries have 
already been told. There remains, however, the tale of 
the men with hand lines in dories or smacks. 


This activity began with the first Long Island people. 
In the days when fishing must, of necessity, be a most 
important part in the frontiersman's struggle for exist- 
ence, it was bnt natural that the fishing rights in the 
creeks and bays near the hamlets of the pioneers should 
be most carefully guarded. At such times, an interloper 
must be prepared to meet a brusque reception. East 
Hampton forbade any stranger taking eels or clams in 
the waters controlled by the town. Huntington added to 
an ordinance, prohibiting both fowling and fishing, a sec- 
tion warning off outsiders from clamming on the beaches 
owned on Great South Bay. The people of Jamaica were 
so much troubled that they sent a commission to the 
governor of the province of New York "for to represent 
to His Lordship the right that this Towne hath to the fish- 
ing of and in the creeks, broken marshes and bay within 
the bounds of the patent of the sd Towne for the prevent- 
ing of strangers from coming to fish here. ' ' The interests 
of the amphibious hamlets of the Long Island frontiers- 
man were as much bound up in their fishing as in their 
farming. Before the time of differentiation each supple- 
mented the other. 1 

It is impossible to trace here the various steps in the 
emergence of the business of fishing with the net and the 
hand line. On Long Island, in the early part of the nine- 
teenth century, it was almost always overshadowed by 
other fisheries, whaling at Sag Harbor, menhaden seining 
in Peconic Bay, or oystering in Great South Bay. Long 
Island, however, lay at the southern border of the area in 
which, for centuries, the great food fisheries of the north 
Atlantic have been carried on. It was inevitable that 
Long Island people should turn the resources of this area 

i N. Y. Col. Docts., I, 268 ; Huntington Becords, . II, 434, 436, 484 ; 
Jamaica Becords, II, 79; East Hampton Becords, IV, 266, 330. 


to profit. Since that distant spring, in 1669, when " Try- 
alls' ' were made "with very good success,' ' when several 
good fishing banks were found off Sandy Hook and the 
southern Long Island shore and a vessel was sent to New- 
foundland "to gett fishermen lines hookes and other 
necessaries," cod fishing has played an important part in 
the life of the Island. 1 The Island smacks have never 
brought to port great catches such as those from the 
famous banks farther to the north. They have, however, 
done a creditable business. In 1830, boats engaged in cod- 
fishing registered an aggregate of eight hundred and fifty- 
nine tons. Even this small tonnage, however, declined by 
more than half during the decade of the forties when whal- 
ing was at the zenith of its prosperity. But fifty years 
later, after bluefish had begun to be caught to meet a grow- 
ing demand, the boats of the Long Island fishermen regis- 
tered nearly six thousand tons and were steadily increas- 
ing in number. Many a whaler, as his business went to 
wreck, turned from the harpoon to the hand line and the 
trawl. In the nineties, Greenport alone had twenty smacks 
that swept the waters off the Long Island and New Jersey 
coasts in summer for bluefish and in winter braved the 
rough waters of the same seas in the dangerous business 
of taking cod. There were usually three men aboard each 
of these boats and the load brought home, if the luck was 
good, was from five thousand to six thousand fish. These 
eastern fishermen, however, did not monopolize the busi- 
ness. Their colleagues of the Great South Bay worked 
the grounds outside of Fire Island Beach and often cast 
their lines inside the bay itself. Nor has the business 
ceased. The fish have not disappeared and the New York 
market has grown steadily more voracious. Many a 
family lives today along the shores of the Island, whose 

i N. Y. Col Docts., Ill, 182-183. 


ups and downs of fortune are determined by the running 
of the cod and the bluefish. 1 

Nor do bluefish and cod comprise the whole of the Long 
Island catch. Sea bass, weakfish, flatfish, eels, and mack- 
erel are only the more important in a long list, with which 
must be ranked clams, crabs, and lobsters. It is a varied 
catch and the methods of taking are no less varied. If 
one were to stroll along the beach of Fort Pond Bay, on 
the north side of the Montauk peninsula, or on the inside 
of Fire Island Beach, near the inlet, he would see, during 
the season, long rows of stakes connected by nets protrud- 
ing from the shallow water. These are the great fish 
traps, "pounds" as they are sometimes called, in which 
the offshore fishermen make their hauls. In 1901, there 
were one hundred of these along the shores of Montauk. 
Sometimes a small school of menhaden will run into the 
trap, followed by their enemies the bluefish, "the wolves 
of the ocean." The "bunkers" will be sold to the fisher- 
men for bait or, if there are too many, to the oil factories 
or the farmers. At other times, the "pounds" will be 
crowded with weakfish, mackerel, or even cod. During 
certain seasons of the year, fykes are set on the bottom 
of Great South Bay. Sometimes, in the same region, eels 
are speared through the ice in the winter. This is a 
profitable business for the bayman when his work on the 
oyster beds has been checked by the cold. In the shallow 
tide-water creeks that empty into Moriches Bay and 
Great South Bay, the business of catching crabs has 
grown up and become extensive. A little sailing skiff or 
power boat, a heavy line two hundred yards or there- 
abouts in length, a small dip-net and several barrels are 
all the equipment needed for the occupation of "crab- 

i McFarland, History of New England Fisheries, p. 17; Reeves, Bicen- 
tennial of Suffolk County, p. 96; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LV (1895), no. 40; 
LVI (1896), no. 301; Long Island Traveler, XXVII (1897), no. 10. 


bing." The line is held in place by two stakes in mid- 
channel and is weighted until it lies close to the bottom. 
Every yard or so is a piece of bait, usually a bit of salted 
eel. The " crabber,' ' during the early hours of the morn- 
ing, sails up and down the line, lifting it and taking off the 
crabs with his dip-net. It is a simple business. 1 

In fact, all fishing seems a simple business. Yet it is a 
work requiring skill, knowledge, and judgment. It cannot 
be mastered in a day or in a week. The fisherman must 
know the tides, the currents, and the winds. He must be 
familiar with the sea bottom where he sets his traps, and 
must know the habits of the fish he seeks. To brave the 
winter waters of the Atlantic in a small boat he must be a 
sailor of skill and daring. The results of the efforts of 
these fishermen are the tons and tons of edible fish that 
pour every week into the New York markets, from which 
they are distributed throughout the interior. Bred in the 
little shore villages, reared on the beach and on the sea, 
these fishermen of Long Island are worthy of note. Their 
contribution to the life of the Island and of the hinterland 
is not inconsiderable. 

i Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LV (1895), no. 56; LVII (1897), no. 26; LVIII 
(1898), no. 295; LXI (1901), no. 293; The Oysterman and Fisherman, 
XIII (1935), no. 9. 



"Few interests have exerted a more marked influence 
upon the history of the United States than that of the 
fisheries. Aside from the value they have had in a com- 
mercial point of view, they have always been found to be 
the nurseries of a hardy, daring, and indefatigable race of 
seamen, such as scarcely any other pursuit could have 
trained.' ' These seamen of Long Island, many of them 
brought up on the fishing smacks or trained on the whal- 
ing ships that left no sea unvisited, have played their part 
in the development of their native coast. It would be 
profitless to trace in detail the history of Long Island 
shipping and shipbuilders. The broad phases of the 
evolution, however, have their significance not only for 
the story of Long Island but for that of the whole Atlantic 

The three small villages of Southold, Southampton, and 
East Hampton, set between forest and sea at the eastern 
end of the Island, were isolated. Miles of water and of 
forest separated them from the nearest white people. 
The sea had brought the occupants of these hamlets to the 
storm-swept peninsulas on which they had built their 
cabins, and the sea was the only path that led back to 
the world they had left. They were self-reliant, these 
adventurous settlers who were gambling their lives and 
fortunes that they might wrest a living from the unknown 
country to which they had come. After the manner of 


pioneers they were forced to supply with their own hands 
practically all the needs of their families. The " people 
of L. Island are very poor and labor only to get bread 
and clothing, without hopes of ever seeing a penny of 
monies." 1 Yet there were some things that must be 
brought from the outer world and some things that the 
local communities could not consume. A trade exchange 
was inevitable. The only highway that offered was the 

The little settlements in the eastern townships lay be- 
tween two important centres, Boston to the east and north 
and the Manhattan trading post to the west. Coming 
from the same Puritan stock, it was but natural that the 
Long Islanders should turn their prows toward Boston 
and avoid the Dutch at New Amsterdam or their British 
successors of the Duke of York's colony, although the 
latter claimed jurisdiction over the entire Island. When 
to make the trip down the Sound from Peconic Bay to the 
New York docks sometimes took six days, it is not strange 
that the New York officers of the law found it practically 
impossible to hold the trade of eastern Long Island to the 
post at the mouth of the Hudson. "Most part of the 
people of the Island, especially toward the east end, are 
of the same stamp with those of New England, refractory 
and very loath to have any commerce with this place 
[New York] to the great detriment of the revenue and the 
ruin of our merchants." 2 The trade which the western 
merchants wanted was in whale oil, which the people of 
the Hamptons spent much of their time and energy in 
obtaining. The Dutch were unable to coerce these outly- 
ing inhabitants of the domain they claimed and the Eng- 
lish inherited an unsolved problem. The New York 

i N. Y. Col Docts., Ill, 106. 

2 Documentary History of New York, I, 166-167; Smith, History of New 
YorJc (1762), I, 273. 


assembly passed an act imposing a ten per cent duty on 
certain trade exchanges with neighboring colonies. It 
was intended to prevent the people of the eastern settle- 
ments "carrying their oyle to Boston and bringing goods 
from thence into this government. ' n The troubles of 
Dongan, governor of the New York province, in enforcing 
this act can be told in no better words than his own in his 
report of 1687. i i They thought it a hardship to be obliged 
to come to this city to enter & clear and on their applica- 
tion were allowed to have a port. . . . Notwithstanding 
the desire of theirs was readily granted they refused to 
take our merchants money or goods and carried away 
their oyle privately to Boston and brought back goods 
from thence privately as formerly. Therefore with the 
advice of the Council ... I have bought a Bark that 
cruiseth there with a master, two seamen, a sergeant & 
six soldiers from the garrison." 2 The governor's display 
of force does not seem to have been so overwhelming as 
to frighten seriously the hardy seamen of the eastern vil- 
lages. The forbidden exchange was not stamped out. 

The illegal trade which Dongan set out to check was 
not, however, confined to that with Boston. In 1660, the 
British government began its long attempt to direct arti- 
ficially the flow of commerce between Great Britain and 
its colonial dependencies. But though it was an easy 
thing to pass navigation acts at Westminster it was quite 
a different matter to enforce them on the long, sparsely 
settled American coast. As early as 1671, a ketch, owned 
partly in Southampton and partly in Southold, was trad- 
ing between those villages and Barbados in the West 
Indies. 3 The latter were the great storehouses of wealth 
in the old colonial days, and quite as often as not traders 

i Documentary History of New York, I, 166-167. 

2 loid. 

3 Southold Records, I, 293. 


from New England or New York passed by the British 
colonies in the Caribbean and risked a visit to the forbid- 
den French or Dutch islands. Smuggling offered an op- 
portunity for profit that the energetic colonists on the 
shores of America were not long in seizing. Of all the 
stretches of the Atlantic coast north of Chesapeake Bay, 
Long Island offered the best opportunities for this traffic. 
To uphold the majesty of the law in the isolated settle- 
ments of Peconic Bay was practically impossible, and 
even farther to the west, near New York, it was found 
"very difficult to discover the frauds & cunning prac- 
tices wch may be used by the Merchants, Importers or 
Exporters by reason there are soe many Islands & by- 
places from wch they may soe easily convey in and out 
without being discovered. ' n Huntington was the scene 
of at least one raid. The great centres of the business 
were "Sitaket, Oyster Bay and Musketo Cove." 2 The 
energetic Governor Bellomont endeavored to meet the 
situation by a vigorous enforcement of the law. Among 
other things, about 1699, he "constituted one John Town- 
send a customs house officer' ' for the region beyond the 
East River. Townsend undertook the task cheerfully 
enough, "but within a month he and his securities . . . 
came and begged he might resign his commission, telling 
me that most of that town [Oyster Bay] were his near 
relations and several of them of his name, yet he was 
threatened by them to be knocked on the head, and he had 
already suffered many abuses, in so much as he was in 
fear of his life." 3 Bellomont estimated at this time that 
the "Excise of Nassaw Island if duely collected would 
amount to £12000 per Ann : which is twelve times as much 
as I doubt it will be let for this year." The eighteenth 

itf. Y. Col. Docts., HI, 305. 

2 Hid., TV, 516-517. 

3 Ibid. 


century opened and grew old with the departments and 
officials of England still working at an unsolved problem. 
The cumbrous British administrative system was never 
able really to enforce the trade laws. Various expedients 
were resorted to from time to time but with little real 
success. More than once the suggestion was made that a 
ship be kept cruising at the entrance of the Sound to 
prevent smugglers from running in, but the suggestions 
never seem to have resulted in any permanent accomplish- 
ment. In 1764, the year before Grenville began his ill- 
fated policy to enforce the Navigation Acts, the report 
was still current that hardy and skillful adventurers were 
using the north shore of Long Island for circumventing 
the trade regulations of the British Empire. 1 Distance 
from the seat of authority, nearness to a growing centre of 
trade and exchange, and a sheltered coast, indented with 
numerous harbors, all conspired to make Long Island one 
of the great American centres for eighteenth-century 
smuggling. The traders were far more skillful than the 
lawmakers in adapting themselves to the peculiarities of 
the western environment. 

The people of the eastern villages early found another 
means of gain, and one hardly to have been expected of 
the worthy Puritans who set out from old and New Eng- 
land to build their homes and to worship God in the 
wilderness. They were, however, subject to a strong 
temptation. Long Island stretched its narrow length far 
to the eastward of New York. Scores of miles of almost 
trackless forest separated the people of Peconic Bay from 
those at the mouth of the Hudson. For the villagers even 
of Southold the Connecticut shore was but a hazy line on 
the northern horizon. In the days at the close of the 
seventeenth century, when piracy was at its height, Long 
Island had an important part in piratical ventures. "I 

i N. Y. Col. Docts., VII, 666. 


understand, ' ' wrote Bellomont in 1699, "that about 30 
pirates came lately in the east end of Nassau Island and 
have a great deal of money with them ; but so cherished 
are they by the inhabitants that not a man of them is 
taken up. Several of them I hear came with Shelly from 
Madagascar. ... I too hear that Captain Kidd dropp'd 
some pirates in that Island. . . . They write from New 
York that Arabian gold is in great plenty there. 9n " Ara- 
bian gold" ! These days were, indeed, far removed from 
those when the people of Long Island labored "only to 
get bread and clothing, without hopes of ever seeing a 
penny of monies. ' ' It is not strange that the gentlemen 
who had brought about the change came to be known, not 
as "pirates,' ' but as "privateers." 

We, of a later generation, have come to look back upon 
the days of these freebooters of the sea as a period of 
romance. From the Red Sea south around the Cape of 
Good Hope and past the West Indies, to New England 
stretched a vast extent of ocean that saw the activities of 
these adventurous buccaneers of old. The picturesque 
Captain Kidd who, in 1691, sailed away in the Adventure, 
armed with thirty-four threatening guns, to put an end 
to piracy, only to become, himself, the greatest among the 
pirates, is but one of the many adventurers who wandered 
from the paths of convention. To the energetic Earl of 
Bellomont, governor of the province of New York, it was 
hard work, trying to clean out the pirates' nest at the 
eastern end of the Island. His letters to his superiors in 
England were full of the difficulties of his task, yet each 
of them was ample for a stirring tale of the sea. One of 
these letters tells of the connivance of his predecessor 
with the freebooters that threatened the commerce of the 
ocean. Another recounts that Rayner, later to be appre- 
hended by Bellomont himself, had landed at the eastern 

i N. Y. Col Docts., TV, 532. 


end of Long Island with a chest of treasure "valued at 
fifteen hundred pounds," but had been seized by the 
sheriff. This unpleasant circumstance made it necessary 
to approach the governor with the persuasion of a " con- 
siderable reward,' ' a manoeuvre crowned with complete 
success. In 1699, after Bellomont had became governor, 
a pirate ship from the East Indies was brought to the east 
end of Long Island and sunk between that Island and 
Block Island. Its treasure, concealed on the latter, was 
recovered and confiscated by the governor of Rhode 
Island. In one letter Bellomont lays bare the skeleton in 
the closet of the chief justice of the colony, who owned an 
extensive grant on Long Island. l ' I confess that I cannot 
have a good opinion of Colonel Smith; he knows what 
pressing orders I have from England to suppress piracy, 
and if he were honest and did his duty, there would not a 
pirate dare show his head in the east end of Nassau 
Island, he is so seated toward that end of the Island that 
he could disturb and seize them as he pleased, and yet 
that end of the Island is at present their rendezvous and 
sanctuary." Those were indeed stirring times. They 
were, however, soon to pass. In 1699, the great Kidd was 
apprehended in New England and sent home to face a 
jury and the gallows. Bellomont secured possession of 
one of Kidd's crew who had been aboard the pirate's 
sloop at the east end of Long Island and who had carried 
off treasure to the value of about £5000. He was sent to 
England with his chief. During the winter of the follow- 
ing year, the successful earl had the satisfaction of hear- 
ing that a pirate ship was hovering cautiously off the 
familiar eastern beaches until the disposition of the 
governor had been learned. When the scouts who had 
gone to New York had returned, the boat and its black 
flag disappeared. The eighteenth century was not many 
years old when the period of romance for "Nassaw 


Island" came to an end. The people of the "pirate's 
nest" at the eastern end, save for a little smuggling, 
settled down to the prosaic business of earning an honest 
living. 1 

iN. Y. Col. Bods., IV, 31, 256, 274, 303, 304, 307, 308, 327, 508, 512, 
532, 535, 595, 710. 


The years of the eighteenth century saw the beginnings 
of a new development in the history of Long Island sea 
trading. The country was filling up with people, and a 
narrow band of settlements along the north shore was 
beginning to make a connection between the eastern and 
western ends. Most important of all, the trading post 
at the lower end of Manhattan Island was rapidly becom- 
ing a city, and its markets an attraction for the produce 
of the country to the east. The " North Country Road" 
and the "Middle Country Road" were laid out to meet 
the needs of the times. Country highways of the type 
known in colonial days were, however, far from being 
capable of handling any considerable trade exchange. 
Snow and ruts in winter and mud in spring made trans- 
portation difficult almost to the point of impossibility. It 
was but natural, therefore, that Long Island people 
should still rely upon the ocean. From the beginning, the 
eastern villages used the sea to communicate with their 
trading centre in Boston. Now, however, the increasing 
markets at New York proved more potent than Governor 
Dongan's "sergeant & six soldiers from the garrison." 
The beginning of the breakdown of the Boston monopoly 
of the trade of Peconic Bay was at hand. 

The changes of the eighteenth century were slow but 
steady. In the thirties and forties, "landings" were 
being established in the bays and harbors of the north 
shore. "Blydenberg's Landing," put in use at Smith- 


town in 1736, was one of the first of these. Wood and 
farm produce were carried from these landing places to 
New York and to the ports of the Sound. 1 By 1765, the 
local trade along the north shore of Long Island had be- 
come of sufficient importance to warrant the establish- 
ment of a regular ferry from Huntington to Norwalk. 2 
The tiny stream of Long Island trade was growing larger, 
and because the Sound presented easy and cheap com- 
munication, the northern part of the Island was filling up 
with villages and farms. The battered wrecks that lined 
the beach on the Atlantic side, still deterred the seamen of 
Southampton and East Hampton from attempting the 
dangerous ocean route to New York. 

After the interruption caused by the war of the Revolu- 
tion, the local coastwise traffic grew as the population of 
the Island increased. Back and forth along the sheltered 
Sound coast sailed a steadily increasing fleet of small 
sloops and schooners. On the westward trip they carried 
wood and the produce of the farm, and on the return 
brought back merchandise, ashes, or manure as the case 
might be. The number of landings grew, and cross-island 
highways brought the inland farmer to the water's edge. 
The north coast, however, was not alone in feeling the 
change. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, 
settlements were extended far along the southern shore. 
With the increase of people came also, in spite of the 
danger, water communication with New York. By 1815, 
the vessels plied back and forth for nearly the whole year 
between Great South Bay and the mouth of the Hudson. 
The increase in shipping was a measure of the growth of 
the Island. As the century progressed, this coasting busi- 
ness grew. In 1824, it was estimated that the township of 
Brookhaven employed one hundred vessels of from thirty 

i Smithtown Becords, pp. 89, 350, 431. 
2 Huntington Becords, II, 484. 


to one hundred tons ' burden in the trade with New York. 
Not many years later, one little village, Stony Brook, was 
giving business to one brig, eight schooners, and fifteen 
sloops, in the transportation of more than four thousand 
cords of wood annually, together with return voyages 
bringing twenty thousand bushels of ashes, one thousand 
bushels of bone, and three hundred loads of other manure. 
The landings, like crossroads stores of the interior, were 
community centres where producer, trader, and consumer 
met, dealt, and gossiped. The names of many of these 
landings have persisted into a generation which knows 
little of the life that once bustled about them. 1 

The rise of the local coast trade, aided by the growth 
of whaling, brought the shipbuilder to Long Island. The 
coasts of that region saw "some of the earliest boat and 
sloop building in the country. . . . This Island had the 
advantage of some good timber, the best and longest 
growth of locust being found here and there beside some 
good oak. " 2 On the sheltered beaches of the Long Island 
shores the ship-carpenter found conditions right for the 
carrying on of his trade. In more than one place, by the 
opening of the nineteenth century, he had laid his marine 
railway and built the small shack for his tools and equip- 
ment. Working on the very edge of the land, the volume 
of the product he turned out was the measure of the pull 
of the sea. The hill-locked harbors of Port Jefferson and 
Stony Brook were among the first to feel the new enter- 
prise. Small boats for fishermen and larger ones for the 
whalers or the captains who carried on the coast trade 
slipped every year from the ways into the water. The 

iLong Island Star, I (1810), no. 36; IV (1813), nos. 190, 199; Spafford, 
Gasatteer of the State of New York (1824), p. 60; Thompson, I, 391, 432, 
433, 434, 474; American Agriculturist, XIX, 229; French, Gazatteer of the 
State of New York (1860), p. 639. 

2 Hall, ' ' Ship Building Industry of the United States, ' ' United States 
Census (1880), VIII, 119, 


shipbuilder was dependent for his business upon the de- 
velopment of other callings. 

In the middle years of the nineteenth century, from 
1840 to 1860, the development of the American merchant 
marine reached its spectacular culmination. The white 
sails of the square-rigged and schooner-rigged sailing 
craft of the United States dotted every sea. It was the 
era of the clipper ship when the Yankee sailor knew no 
superior and when much of the world's carrying trade 
was in American hands. The quiet coast of Long Island 
reflected the development of the broad Atlantic. In places 
where population had grown, the primitive landing gave 
place to the wharf erected by the specially incorporated 
wharf company. To these new docks were moored, not 
only the desultory coasting sloop that put in from time to 
time, but the packet sailing on a regular schedule. Weekly 
and, sometimes, semi-weekly boats plied between New 
York and the villages of both the north and south Long 
Island shores. These vessels were built for speed and 
their captains were ordered to make trips regularly re- 
gardless of wind, weather, or boat. Rivalries were keen 
and jealousies great. Many a race streaked the waters of 
the Sound with foam. 1 

It was during these years that the shipbuilder came 
into his own. Whaling was forging rapidly ahead to the 
point of its greatest development, and whale oil and bone 
were being carried by an ever increasing fleet of boats 
from Sag Harbor to Boston and New York. The men- 
haden business was shifting from an offshore to a deep- 
sea fishery. On Great South Bay the oyster industry had 
left the worn-out Blue Point beds and was spreading out 
over the great area of the newly discovered fields to the 
west. At the same time the oystermen of the north shore 

i Long Island Farmer, IX (1829), no. 5; " Reminiscences of Captain 
Oliver Doxey," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LV (1895), no. 319. 


were opening up great beds in the shallow waters of the 
Sound. Boats were needed, not only for dredging, but for 
carrying to market the tons and tons of oysters secured 
every year. The fishermen were increasing in number. 
They needed smacks and sharpies as well as transporta- 
tion. It was also the time on Long Island when the old, 
inefficient general farming was giving place to a new and 
specialized profession. More and more wagons came to 
the landings or the wharves to ship away the products of 
the fields or to load with manure from the city. Beside 
the landings were great piles of cordwood waiting to be 
taken by boat to New York to be used as fuel. 

The supplying of boats for these varied and extensive 
demands kept the hammers of the ship-carpenters always 
busy. By 1840, shipyards and marine railways were to be 
found in almost every shore village. In that year, it was 
estimated that Suffolk County had practically seventy 
thousand dollars invested in the business. Fifteen years 
later, at the zenith of its development, the county boasted 
no less than twenty-five shipyards. Catboats, fishing- 
smacks, sloops, schooners, brigs, and barks in all stages 
of construction stood in the stocks of the Long Island 
beaches. The heavier vessels were built on the fiords of 
the north shore and the smaller craft on the southern 
bays. The H. 8. Marlow was typical of the best boats the 
Long Island builders turned out. When, in 1869, this 
double-decked, three-masted schooner slipped from the 
ways at Port Jefferson, she measured in the keel one hun- 
dred and ten feet, with twenty-three feet in the beam, and 
sixteen feet in depth. 1 During the busy years of the fifties, 
when there were ten and twelve yards in this harbor, 

i Thompson, I, 432, 434, 436; Long Island Farmer, XIX (1851), no. 27; 
French, Gazatteer of the State of New Yor~k (1860), pp. 549, 633, 634, 636, 
639; New YorTc State Census (1855), pp. 416-430, (1865), 498-511; Eeeves, 
Bicentennial of Suffolk County (1883), pp. 62, 64, 121-123; Hall, op. cit., 
pp. 17, 18, 23, 25, 117-118, 119-120. 


there were times when as many as seventeen boats, many 
of them of the class of the H. S. Marlow, stood on the 
stocks at once. These were days when the pnll of the 
sea was felt throughout the length and breadth of 
America, when American boats were fastest and Ameri- 
can seamanship ablest. It is not surprising that Long 
Island, whose people had been reared for generations 
within smell of the salt water, and whose wooded hills and 
quiet harbors lay so close to the great commercial centre 
of New York, should feel to the full the dominant trend of 
the times and should make use of almost every available 
cove and beach in furthering the great national develop- 

In the middle years of the nineteenth century, the 
American merchant marine reached the culmination of its 
development and passed to a swift decline. During its 
rise, the development of the competing steamboat had 
been steadily under way. In 1814, seven years after Ful- 
ton 's Clermont had puffed for the first time up the Hud- 
son, a clumsy steamer, the Nassau, was making little 
excursion trips out of Brooklyn. It was a novelty, like the 
first excursion aeroplanes a century later. By 1820, a 
regular steamboat line had been established between New 
York and Flushing. Fifteen years later, side-wheelers 
were churning the waters considerably farther to the east. 
In 1844, the main line of the Long Island Railroad was 
built to Greenport. At once a steamer was put on to ply 
between that terminal and Stonington, in order to com- 
plete the route between New York and Boston. With the 
opening of the railroad the eastern villages were invig- 
orated with new life. A demand for steamer transporta- 
tion appeared. Sag Harbor needed a boat to ply across 
Peconic Bay to make a connection with the railroad. Be- 
fore many years, the steamer to Stonington was given up 
and in its place a boat made regular trips between Hart- 


ford, New London, Greenport, and Sag Harbor. The 
next step in the development was a steamer sailing be- 
tween the eastern villages and New York. By 1860, two 
boats, the Massachusetts and the Cataline, were making 
regular trips from the eastern ports to the New York 
docks. Thirteen years later, a ferry between Port Jeffer- 
son and Bridgeport on the Connecticut shore established 
regular and easy communication across Long Island 
Sound. Since that time, there have been but few impor- 
tant changes in this transportation system built up in 
the years immediately following the decline of the mer- 
chant marine of wooden sailing vessels. 1 

The changing life of Long Island was reflected nowhere 
better than in its shipyards. After the turn of the cen- 
tury, the whale fishery came to a speedy end. No longer 
was there any call for whaling ships and boats. At the 
same time the steamer was supplanting the sailing craft 
in the taking of both menhaden and oysters. Sometimes 
the Long Island yards built these but, more often, the 
work of these yards was confined to repairing. The cover- 
ing of the Island with a network of railroads and the im- 
proving of the highways caused a great falling off of the 
farm products carried by water. The coastwise-carrying 
fleet sank into insignificance, the steamboats doing most 
of the business. In spite of the changes in the fisheries 
and the farms, however, the shipbuilder and the marine 
railway did not cease to exist. In the latter years of the 
century,- the shores of the Island came to be covered with 
summer people. The demand for pleasure boats steadily 

iLong Island Star, VI (1814), 268; XX (1829), no. 46; Long Island 
Farmer, XVI (1848), no. 31; Thompson, I, 436; Sag Harbor Express, I 
(1860), nos. 22, 49; XXI (1880), nos. 33, 42; Long Island Traveler, XV 
(1885), nos. 7, 14; XX (1892), nos. 3, 5, 14; XXIX (1900), no. 42; Long 
Island (1900), p. 41; Summer Homes on Long Island (1900), p. 6; Brook- 
lyn Daily Eagle, LXI (1901), no. 74; Long Island, Illustrated (1905), pp. 
141-142; Home Builder on Long Island (1907), map. 


grew. Where, years before, the sturdy sloop had plied 
back and forth along the shore, now could be seen the trim 
lines of a yacht scudding before the wind. The building 
and repairing of these kept the old ship-carpenter at his 

Through the changing times came further manifesta- 
tions of the pull of the sea, which has lost none of its 
power. It influences the life of the Island even more than 
in the days of Captain Kidd. It is true that the carrying 
trade has declined, and that the ocean has not been able 
to stand against the competition of the railroad and the 
automobile. Yet the steamboat and the sailing vessel still 
persist. Only weathering skeletons on the beach and the 
tales of old men can serve to recall the days that have 


The railway era came to Long Island early. In 1828, 
near Baltimore, "the venerable signer of the Declaration 
of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, placed 
the foundation stone to commemorate the commencement 
of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, first of the iron 
bands between the east and the west. ' ' Four years later, 
the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad was chartered and 
construction almost immediately begun. With a caution 
that reflected the uncertain ideas of the times, the legisla- 
ture of New York introduced into the charter a significant 
limiting clause which would enable the state after a cer- 
tain specified time to buy up the corporation and turn it 
into a state-owned utility. 1 

The railroad, however, did not come to Long Island 
primarily for the sake of the Island itself. The year 1832 
was an important one in early railroad building. Proj- 
ects of some magnitude were in the air. In this year, 
Philadelphia was attempting to increase its hold on 
Pennsylvania by means of the Philadelphia, Germantown, 
and Morristown Railroad. At the same time, New York 
was pushing toward Albany and the Mohawk with the 
New York and Harlem, and was reaching toward Phila- 
delphia itself with the Camden and Amboy. 2 All these 
projects were small in realization but large in prospect. 
In the same class was the Brooklyn and Jamaica. The 

i Hinsdale, History of the Long Island Railroad (1898), p. 1. 
2 Dunbar, A History of Travel in America, III, 976-986. 


opening of the route to Philadelphia stimulated the men 
of that time to believe that still greater feats were possi- 
ble. A rail route to Boston was dreamed of, though the 
rough hill country; and broad rivers of New England were 
believed to render forever impossible an all-rail route be- 
tween Massachusetts Bay and the mouth of the Hudson 
River. A road from Boston to Stonington, the Boston 
and Providence, had already been put under way. A road 
from Brooklyn to eastern Long Island where passengers 
and freight could be ferried across to the New England 
line seemed the ideal solution for the problem of com- 
munication between Boston and New York. The feasi- 
bility of the project was set forth by the promoters of the 
scheme. ' ' The public mind is quite familiar with speeds 
of twenty to thirty miles per hour and numerous locomo- 
tives in various parts of our country are wheeling daily 
over their respective tracks, at these rates, without a 
murmur of alarm or disapprobation, I think it not un- 
reasonable therefore to assume five hours as a fair aver- 
age trip from Brooklyn to Greenport. . . . The Ferry 
will then occupy two hours, but by making the Ferry Boat 
a convenient Hotel, with proper arrangements for rest 
and refreshments, this will prove only an agreeable and 
profitable relaxation. The remainder of the trip [from 
Stonington] to Boston will be performed easily in four 
hours and a half, so that only eleven hours and a half will 
be required for the entire journey from New York, or 
Brooklyn, to Boston." 1 It was a large project for those 
early railway days. The Long Island Railroad was one 
of the great ventures of its time. 

With minds fixed upon the requirements of the Boston 
trade, the promoters of the railroad considered possibili- 
ties for the location of the road. At the outset the claims 
of Sag Harbor, the largest of the eastern villages, to be- 

i Engineer's Report to the Long Island Railroad (1834), p. 10. 


come the terminus of the road were rejected. In its stead 
the tiny hamlet of Greenport on the other side of Peconic 
Bay was chosen. "The maritime position of Greenport, 
its convenience as a harbour, unobstructed at all seasons 
of the year, and the facility with which it can be made by 
ships coming- on the coast in certain states of wind, these 
and other considerations of a like kind, give it an interest- 
ing relation to the city of New York as an outpost and 
harbour of safety." 1 The great consideration, however, 
was the fact that the ferry to the New England coast 
would be materially shorter from Greenport than from 
the more southerly Sag Harbor, a vital point in the laying 
out of a route to Boston. 

For the Island itself three possibilities were con- 
sidered. The first was an extreme northern location 
which would touch the villages on the harbors of the north 
coast. The second was a more central route to follow the 
top of the ridge which extends the length of the Island. 
This location would have kept the tracks very close to 
the Middle Country Eoad, and would have taken them 
through a productive farming country. The third or 
" southern' ' route, to be laid out five or six miles north of 
the south shore, would pass through the "unimproved 
pine plain country. ' ' It would follow the northern edge 
of that smooth apron of glacial outwash that slopes 
gradually from the hills of the terminal moraine to the 
sea. Of all the routes the last was the cheapest and most 
easy to build. The handicap of passing through an un- 
settled region would be more than counterbalanced by the 
increased speed that could be developed by fast trains in 
passing over a flat country with neither hills nor rivers 
to obstruct. The route to Boston was the dominant con- 
sideration. Faced with these three possibilities, the first 
managers of the railroad made a choice which was pro- 

i Engineer's Report to the Long Island Railroad (1834), p. 11. 


foundly to affect the destinies of the Island. Subordinat- 
ing the needs of the region itself and adapting their road 
to an environment in which Boston and New York were 
the controlling factors, the directors of the Long Island 
Railroad chose the "southern" route through the pine 
plains country. This "main line" of the Long Island 
Railroad still exists, a monument to the shortsightedness 
of the founders of the company. 

In 1844, the year of its completion, the Long Island 
Railroad was one of the largest and best-equipped roads 
in the state of New York. It had ninety-six miles of track 
in operation, and a rolling stock which consisted of eleven 
locomotives, twenty-two passenger cars and sixty-three 
freight cars. The road possessed more locomotives than 
any other in the state save the Utica and Schenectady, 
and more freight cars save any but the Mohawk and Hud- 
son. Although the road was not open to Greenport until 
July twenty-second, the income for the year 1844 totaled 
$143,300 from passenger traffic, and $10,154 from freight. 1 
It was a large undertaking, and the beginning was auspi- 
cious. Difficulties, however, lay immediately ahead. 

Into the antiquated villages of the secluded eastern 
townships the railroad suddenly came, in the year 1844, 
bringing with it the beginnings of a veritable social revo- 
lution. Since the earliest settlements these people had 
been isolated. "True, the facilities of traveling by water 
have been considerable ; but this has always been attended 
with a great expense of time, and with a degree of dan- 
ger, that renders it formidable to many. . . . Seclusion 
from distant parts, instead of making them restless, 
seems to have confirmed the habit of staying at home. ,, 
Into such quiet, old-fashioned communities puffed the 
little locomotives of the new railway. "The inhabitants 

i ' ' Annual Eeport of the Secretary of State Eelative to Eailway Statis- 
tics," New YorJc State Assembly Documents (1845), no. 129. 


have scarcely yet recovered from the consternation pro- 
duced by the actual opening of this Road. Though during 
its construction, its future facilities were often foretold, 
multitudes regarded them as the vagaries of a disordered 
brain ; or, more frequently, the wilful misrepresentations 
of interested individuals, who wished to obtain a passage 
through their stunted pines and sandy plains for a mere 
song. But, until they beheld with their own eyes the 
cumbrous train of cars, drawn by an iron horse, spouting 
forth smoke and steam, passing like a steed of lightning 
through their forests and fields, with such velocity that 
they could not tell whether the countenances of the pas- 
sengers were human, celestial or infernal, they would not 
believe that a Rail Road had power almost to annihilate 
both space and time." 1 Until 1844, New York City had 
been three days away from these people. It was now five 

The first reaction of the people of eastern Long Island 
to the noisy innovation was distinctly hostile. "When 
the road was completed to Hicksville, and gradually ex- 
tended, into Suffolk, it was made for years a regular Sab- 
bath breaking concern. . . . The good people of the 
eastern towns, instead of rejoicing in the secular benefits 
. . . began to . . . pour out bitter lamentations in view 
of the moral desolations that were to set in upon them. 
But a brighter prospect is presented. The Rail Road has 
been completed, and throughout its entire length, not a 
car moves on the Sabbath-day." 2 By this "important 
concession to correct sentiment" the diplomatic managers 
of the new road succeeded in avoiding the first of their 

More serious, however, were the great fires, kindled 
by sparks from the unscreened locomotives. These swept 

i Prime, History of Long Island (1845), pp. 55-57. 
2 Ibid., p. 58. 


over vast regions of the forested country in the central 
part of the Island, leaving black desolation behind. Lum- 
ber and wood in huge quantities were destroyed and the 
game of the region perished. " Under these circum- 
stances, the great excitement among the people of Suffolk 
county, is certainly no matter of surprise. . . . Had there 
not been a strong . . . influence predominating in the 
community, it is impossible to say what outrages would 
not have been perpetrated.'' 1 "A correspondent of the 
Evening Post says that the Long Island Railroad, having 
been indicated as a nuisance, the rails thereof may be 
taken up, and the tracks destroyed and the company can 
only bring an action of trespass, it being no crime to de- 
stroy a nuisance. He intimates very plainly that the 
tracks will be torn up unless the railroad company come 
to some agreement in relation to the property destroyed 
by fire from the locomotives. ' ,2 Faced with such a situa- 
tion the road took vigorous measures to put an end to the 
evil. In two years the situation was fairly well in hand, 
but not, however, until many square miles of valuable 
timber-land had been devastated. 

The protests of the pious, outraged at the morals of the 
road, and the threats of the irate owners of the burned 
forests were, however, as nothing compared to the calam- 
ity which was about to fall. In 1848, the impossible hap- 
pened. In December of that year, an ' ' all-rail route ' ' was 
opened up between New York and Boston. 3 Only four 
years after its completion, the Long Island Railroad lost 
irretrievably the business which had called it into being, 
and which had determined the location of its tracks. The 
managers of the road turned to the people and to the 
resources of the Island. It was then, for the first time, 

i Prime, p. 59. 

2 Long Island Farmer, XV (1845), no. 7. 

3 Dunbar, III, 1005. 


that they discovered the seriousness of their initial blun- 
der. There was scarcely a village of consequence on the 
road beyond Jamaica. Sag Harbor, the metropolis of the 
eastern townships, had only water connection with the 
railway across Peconic Bay. Greenport, Southold, and 
Kiverhead could together scarcely equal the business of 
the vigorous whaling port then at the acme of its develop- 
ment. Farther to the west the situation was little better. 
The farmers and the villagers of the north and the south 
sides were compelled to drive to the interior from six to 
ten miles over sandy forest roads to reach the stations of 
the railroad. It is not strange that many preferred the 
slower but cheaper transportation offered by the lines of 
coasting vessels. The Long Island Eailroad, thrown back 
upon the Island for support, found not only that it was ill 
adjusted to the region, but that the economic development 
of the area it served did not warrant so extensive an im- 
provement. In such a situation the inevitable occurred. 
With the Boston trade gone, passenger receipts fell and, 
with the loss in income, stocks dropped. In 1850, only six 
years after the completion of its main line, the road went 
into the hands of a receiver. 1 

It was obvious at this point that strong measures had 
to be taken. A new policy was adopted, one which should 
have been adopted at the beginning, of developing the 
resources of the Island. For a few years there was a 
struggle to obtain a sound financial footing. Then came 
a period of cautious expansion. In 1854, tracks were laid 
from Hicksville northeast to Syosset in the heart of a 
rich farming country. This branch tapped the trade of 
a considerable part of the north shore, and, for many 
years, Syosset remained an important centre for collec- 
tion and distribution. In 1860, a line was pushed through 
from Jamaica to Hunter's Point, located on the East 

i Long Island Farmer, XVIII (1850), no. 18; Hinsdale, p. 5. 


River just north of Brooklyn. This move gave a second 
terminus at the New York end of the line. In this same 
year, 1860, the Long Island Railroad began its long cam- 
paign to demonstrate the fertility of the ' ' Pine Barrens ' ' 
and its attempt to fill the region with settlers. All things 
considered, the new policy brought results. In 1852, the 
passenger earnings amounted to $142,741. By 1863, this 
figure had risen to $227,000. During these eleven years 
freight receipts increased from $58,000 to $121,000. The 
future began to brighten. 1 

The year 1863 marks a turning point, not only in the 
history of the Long Island Railroad, but in that of the 
Island itself. In that year Oliver Charlick was elected 
president of the L. I. R. R. Charlick represents an inter- 
esting American type. He was born in poverty on Long 
Island. His boyhood' was spent at f armwork on some of 
the less desirable land of the region and in the cutting of 
wood in its forests. Like many another poor boy of his 
day he went to New York to seek his fortune. Here, it is 
said, he "made his start' ' by engaging in the "groggery 
business in Coentrus Slip. ,, As with the boy heroes of 
the storybooks, fortune smiled upon him and he became 
a man of wealth and power. Moreover, as the successful 
hero should do, he returned to the land of his youth. 
Charlick came back with the destinies of the Long Island 
RailroaS in his hands at the formative period in the his- 
tory of the Island. His power for good or evil was almost 
boundless. 2 

With the advent of Charlick came an abrupt change in 
the policy of the railroad. The farsighted plan for the 
improving and upbuilding of the Island was discontinued 
and a policy of exploitation inaugurated. The road was 
turned into a purely money-making venture, a change full 

iNew York State, Railroad Reports (1852), p. 64; (1863), pp. 265-270. 
2 Sag Baroor Express, XII (1871), no. 46; Hinsdale, p. 7. 


of consequences, both for the railroad and for the people. 
The Charlick policy did not mean that expansion had 
come to an end. Branch lines were built where profit 
seemed to offer. Unlike the previous decade, however, 
when the people of the favored locality cooperated in the 
building, there was now too often wrangling and misun- 
derstanding. In 1867, a line was extended to Northport, 
but it would have nothing to do with the locally owned 
Port Jefferson and Smithtown Eailway. Two years later 
tracks were laid from Manor to Sag Harbor, opening for 
the first time the Hamptons to direct rail communication. 
In spite of these important improvements, however, the 
murmurs of discontent grew loud. President Charlick 
was attacked. His alleged refusals to accommodate pa- 
trons of the road were severely, sometimes coarsely, criti- 
cised. Whole localities became aggrieved, as was the case 
with Sag Harbor. Animosity toward the railroad grew 
until the situation became unbearable. 1 

"This is the period of railway agitation, of roads and 
rumors of roads. Some plans are put forth to counter- 
balance other roads. Some are merely to affect stocks." 
This remark of the Sag Harbor Express in 1871 was a 
statement of a situation which had obtained in Long Is- 
land for a half dozen of years or more. Exasperated by 
the Long Island Railroad and prompted also by a desire 
for profit, Long Island people began to take matters into 
their own hands. In 1866, the building of the South Side 
Railroad began. It was the project of the citizens of the 
villages along the south shore who refused longer to drive 
to the middle of the Island for their railway facilities. 
The road was quickly completed to Patchogue, and at 
once drew away from the Long Island Railroad the busi- 
ness of a large area. Negotiations were entered into with 

iLong Island Farmer, XLIX (1870), no. 15; Sag Harbor Express, XII 
(1870), nos. 45, 46; XIII (1871), nos. 1, 11, 16; Hinsdale, p. 11. 


the L. I. R. R. to receive the cars of the new company at 
Jamaica, but President Charlick refused. The managers 
of the South Side Railroad, therefore, pushed their 
tracks through Bushwick to Brooklyn. From the vantage 
of a terminus of their own on the East River, they began 
a bitter war with their older and better intrenched rival. 
It was of a kind with the wars that filled this period of 
American railway history. 1 

The South Side Railroad, however, was not alone in its 
struggle with the old Long Island Railroad. The people 
of the north shore were also entering the lists. During 
the sixties, a system was built up with its East River 
terminus at Hunter's Point, and its centre at Flushing, 
whence radiated roads to College Point, Whitestone, and 
Great Neck. A most important part of the system was 
the Stewart Road which, cutting diagonally across the 
Island from Flushing to Babylon, tapped both the other 
competing roads. Small though they were, the Flushing 
lines cared for the most populous part of Long Island and 
as a consequence presented a serious menace to the com- 
pany over which Mr. Charlick presided. 2 

During the first years of the decade from 1870 to 1880, 
therefore, three well-developed railway systems carried 
on a ruthless competition for the business of Long Island. 
It was an impossible situation. President Charlick was 
forced to withdraw, and a new management changed the 
policy of the Long Island Railroad. The fight, however, 
still continued until, in 1874, it bore its inevitable fruit. 
In that year, just eight years after its founding, the South 
Side Railroad became bankrupt, and on September six- 
teenth was sold under foreclosure. 3 

iNew York State, Eailroad Eeports (1868), p. 508, (1869), p. 636, 
(1870), p. 751; Hinsdale, pp. 12-13. 

2 Long Island Farmer, XLIX (1870), nos. 4, 49; New York State, Bail- 
road Eeports (1875), p. 412, (1880), pp. 205, 568. 

3 New York State, Eailroad Eeports (1874), p. 770. 


Two years after this failure came the first steps toward 
bringing to an end an evil situation. In 1876, Conrad Pop- 
penhusen acquired a controlling interest in each of the 
three competing systems and united them by lease. His 
attempt, however, came too late. Years of competition 
had corroded too deeply. In spite of all his efforts, Pop- 
penhusen could not avert disaster. In 1877, scarcely a 
year after the merger, came the general collapse, and the 
combined railroads of Long Island were put into the 
hands of a receiver. It was the same cycle that was harry- 
ing the whole nation during the same years — cutthroat 
competition, bankruptcy, and consolidation. 1 

In 1878, the receiver, T. R. Sharp, pressed vigorously 
the old policy of the upbuilding and developing of the 
Island, which had already been begun so many times. 
This time the emphasis was most heavily laid on the pos- 
sibilities of the region for summer recreation. A veri- 
table campaign was inaugurated to bring to the attention 
of the world the beauties of Long Island's bays and har- 
bors. Just as the new management was getting under 
way, however, Austin Corbin, the owner of the great hotel 
at Manhattan Beach, bought a controlling interest in the 
combined systems and replaced Sharp as receiver. Cor- 
bin set out to continue and complete the policy of develop- 
ment. To Hinsdale, the road's attorney, was given a 
tangled legal complex out of which he brought, by 1892, a 
completely consolidated system; redundant lines were 
abandoned and where necessary new branches were built. 
In 1880, the south shore division was extended to East- 
port. In 1892, the north shore branch was pushed on 
from Port Jefferson to Wading River. In 1893, the line 
going southeast from Manor was extended from Bridge- 
hampton to Fort Pond Bay on the Montauk peninsula. 
By 1895, the Long Island Railroad system was practically 

i Hinsdale, pp. 24, 25. 


complete. The old main line cuts through the central part 
of the Island from Jamaica to Riverhead and extends out 
the north branch. Parallel to this and connecting with it 
at frequent intervals, are divisions stretching the length 
of either shore. It is an arrangement strikingly parallel 
to the system of highways begun far back in the eight- 
eenth century. 1 

With the practical completion of railroad building on 
the Island, one great problem remained. By 1900, the 
business of Long Island had grown to such a volume that 
the connection with New York City offered by ferries and 
by the Brooklyn Bridge had become inadequate. On 
April 29, 1899, the legislature of the state of New York 
passed the act giving to the Long Island Railroad the 
right to build a subway under Atlantic Avenue in Brook- 
lyn, to tunnel under the East River, and to erect a termi- 
nal station in New York. One year later, the independent 
existence of the Long Island Railroad came to an end 
when it became a part of the Pennsylvania system. In 
1907, the Pennsylvania management published the plans 
for the great New York Terminal. A part of the scheme 
was a connection with the Long Island Railroad system 
through four single track tubes under East River. 2 

For passengers Long Island had ceased to be an island. 
For freight however, the ferry boat was still a constant 
necessity. In November, 1914, with the commencement 
of the Hell Gate Arch Bridge, the longest arch in the 
world, the last step in joining Long Island to the main- 
land was begun. The completion on March 1, 1917, of this 
span, one thousand and sixteen feet in length, provided 
a four-track connection between the Long Island Railroad 
and the New York, New Haven and Hartford system. 
The cost of the huge steel structure, was more than six- 

i Hinsdale, pp. 27-33. 

2 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LIX (1899), no. 118; LX (1900), no. 124. 


teen times the estimated expense of the whole railroad 
and its equipment in the days when the first tracks were 
being laid from Jamaica to Greenport. With the comple- 
tion of the Hell Gate Arch Bridge, Long Island has 
entered upon a new phase. Five bridges span the East 
River and five tunnels pass under it. Long Island as an 
island exists no longer. It has become a peninsula. 

The railroad brought to Long Island the same changes 
that it did elsewhere. With the laying of the tracks the 
old environment was fundamentally altered. Men accus- 
tomed to think in terms of horse-drawn and seagoing 
transportation were compelled to adjust themselves to 
new conditions. Time and distance were profoundly 
affected. For Long Island the most important change 
was the multiplication of the power of the city of New 
York. This great population centre, now only a few 
hours away, filled Long Island with a life that it had 
never known before. In a sense, the railroad brought to 
an end the separate existence of Long Island and made it 
a dependency of New York City. Through the influence 
of that city every hamlet on the Island felt the giant 
power of the hinterland. Yet the railroad did not dimin- 
ish the influence of the sea over the lives of the people. 
To be sure the coast trade sank into insignificance. This, 
however, was all. Every maritime industry save whaling, 
about to disappear, was invigorated. Furthermore, the 
sea appeared in a new role when the railroad began to 
bring trainloads of campers and pleasure seekers to the 
beaches. If the influence of New York City and the 
hinterland was augmented, so also was that of the ocean. 


In writing the story of a people it has too often been the 
habit to omit any but the slightest reference to the high- 
ways. Yet, as Charles Sumner once remarked, "The road 
and the schoolhouse are the two most important agents 
in advancing civilization. ' ' Highways are the arteries 
for the life of the community. Good roads and bad roads 
have invariably given an unmistakable cast to the regions 
which they served. Although the canal and the railroad 
appeared to solve special problems in transportation, the 
true function of the highway has not been altered nor has 
its unique importance been impaired. Perhaps, for this 
reason, it may not be without value to tell the story of the 
Long Island roads. The problems which the people of 
this region met differed little from those faced elsewhere 
in the nation. The phases in the road development on 
Long Island suggest the phases in the evolution in the 
larger area. 

The village streets in the tiny frontier hamlets were the 
first American highways. From them, as field after field 
was cleared, were pushed paths to connect the cabins with 
the farms outside the stockades. "Ordered that there 
shall be a highway between Thomas Baker's and William 
Mulford's lots"; "Ordered that there shall be a highway 
in the vacant lot by Gardiner Price's straight to the 
swamp"; "Ordered that a cartway be built over the 
swamp to the plains." So they were pushed farther and 
farther on as the village grew. These cartways seem to 


have met only the needs of the particular hamlets they 
served. There was almost no effort to connect one village 
with its neighbors. Such travel must be by the sea. The 
first "highways," therefore, represented the simplest of 
direct adaptations to a primitive environment. 1 

It must not be believed that these ' ' highways ' ' were, in 
any way, comparable to the roads of a later time. They 
were little more than paths set aside for the common use. 
Along them the village herdsman drove the cattle and 
sheep of the community and men walked to and from their 
fields. A few carts jolted over them, but roughhewn 
sledges were probably more common. Eoads which car- 
ried such simple traffic needed neither improvements nor 
uniformity. Some were three "poles" and some five 
"poles" wide. Some were rented out to local husband- 
men and others were kept open for use. These were 
pioneer days, not only in farming and fishing but in road 
making. 2 

The year 1724 seems to have marked the beginning of a 
new epoch in Long Island road building. By that time 
the number of people and of villages had so increased that 
the plan for a local road system serving only its imme- 
diate community was proving inadequate. Highways to 
break down the isolation of the villages were becoming 
essential. In 1724, the general assembly of the province 
of New York passed an act providing for the laying out 
of roads in Suffolk County and the appointing of commis- 
sioners to take charge of the work. 3 The first work of 
the new officials was to revise the local road systems. Old 
highways were abandoned and new ones laid out. The 
newly surveyed roads numbered, in East Hampton, thir- 

t-East Hampton Records, I, 32, 59, 60; Huntington Records, I, 259; 
Hempstead Records, I, 74; Documentary History of New York, I, 161. 
2 Southold Records, p. 188 ; East Hampton Records, III, 448. 
s East Hampton Records, III, 440. 


teen, and, in Smithtown, seventeen. 1 The policy of laying 
out highways merely to meet local needs was abandoned. 
In its place was inaugurated the plan of developing a 
road system for the Island. At this point the geographic 
characteristics of the region came sharply into play. The 
people who were filling the Island were concentrated 
mainly at the eastern and western ends. Connecting these 
areas was a small fringe of settlements along the north 
shore. The problem was to establish communication be- 
tween the two main population centres. About 1733, 
three trunk roads were laid out to be completed many 
years later. The " North Country Boad" was surveyed 
to pass from the head of one harbor to another along the 
north shore of the Island. The "South Country Road'' 
was to follow the southern beaches. Between these, and 
roughly parallel to them was the "Middle Country Road," 
laid out along the crest of the morainic ridge that runs 
through the centre of the Island. It was a road system 
that has persisted without fundamental change to the 
present time. 2 

The nineteenth century had not yet opened when a new 
era in American road building was ushered in. The prob- 
lem of the pioneers was to lay out the roads. That of the 
new generation was quite different. By the end of the 
eighteenth century, cities had sprung up. Transporta- 
tion, not only between one urban centre and another, but 
between the city and the farm, became essential. The use 
of wheeled vehicles for freight and passenger transport 
was spreading with great rapidity. The Conestoga wagon 
and the other improved conveyances of the day made the 
development of better roads inevitable. The colonial road 
without improvement and with hardly any bridges had 
become a drag on progress. In 1792, the Lancaster Turn- 

i East Hampton Records, III, 440; Smithtown Records, pp. 87-88. 
2 French, Gazatteer'of the State of New YorTc (1860), p. 632. 


pike Company was incorporated by the state of Pennsyl- 
vania. It was an epoch-marking event. This road was 
the first of the turnpikes, which themselves were the first 
manifestations of a craze for internal improvements. The 
new road, moreover, marked the emergence of private 
capital as the dominant factor in highway improvement 
in the more settled communities. From this time on for 
many years, the best roads in America were privately 
owned, managed, and maintained. No man was free to 
travel without paying his toll. The traveler, therefore, 
and not the taxpayer was the ultimate source whence the 
money for building and maintaining the new roadways 
was obtained. The states, occupied in pushing improve- 
ments into the undeveloped West, seem to have been quite 
willing to leave improvement in the East to private enter- 
prise. It is also more than probable that the "fascinat- 
ing project of speculating in turnpike stock' ' did not act 
as a deterrent to the spread of the " spirit of turnpik- 
ing." 1 

In 1801, with the incorporation of the Flushing and 
Newtown Bridge and Turnpike Company, the good roads 
movement came to Long Island. The first important 
stimulus to improvement, however, was the result of the 
demand of fashion. One of the great watering places of 
the time was at Far Rockaway. Every day, during the 
summer season, great numbers of gigs, carriages, and 
coaches bearing the polite society of New York, could be 
seen crossing the ferry to Brooklyn to make the drive to 
the shore. These people demanded better roads and, in 
1806, work on the Jamaica and Rockaway turnpike was 
begun. Three years later, the improved route to the 
shore was made complete by the incorporation of the 
Brooklyn, Jamaica, and Flatbush Turnpike Company. 

i New York Society for the Promotion of Arts, Agriculture and Manu- 
factures, Transactions, II (1807), 196-198. 


Society from the city could now enjoy a smooth "pike" 
all the way to the beach. 1 

In 1807, the state of New York, with nine hundred miles 
of turnpike roads completed and three thousand more 
projected, passed its first general turnpike law for the 
standardizing of the regulations governing the new type 
of road. 2 From this point the development of Long Is- 
land turnpikes was mainly in the interest of the farmer. 
Wherever the turnpike came, rural isolation began to 
break down. Decade after decade, in the first half of the 
nineteenth century, saw the pushing of good roads east- 
ward. In the forties, the development came practically 
to an end, when the Long Island Railroad completed its 
line to Greenport. By that time, however, the system was 
extensive. The two East River terminals were Brooklyn 
and Williamsburg. From each of these cities extended 
a turnpike to Jamaica, the most important highway centre 
in the western part of the Island. From this place 
branched the trunk roads, the Middle Country and the 
South Country roads. By 1845, the South Country Road 
had been turnpiked through Hempstead to Babylon, and 
the Middle Country Road east as far as Jericho. Along the 
north shore, however, stretched the greatest turnpike of 
all. Beginning at Williamsburg, the North Country Road 
stretched its improved surface eastward through Flush- 
ing, Oyster Bay, and Huntington to its terminus at Smith- 
town. 3 Year after year, longer and longer caravans of 
farmers' wagons rolled over these new highways to the 
markets of New York. It must be remembered, however, 
that, although in other parts of the United States the 
turnpike had practically no competitor until the coming 

iLong Island Star, I (1809), no. 26; VI (1814), no. 261; VIII (1816), 
nos. 376, 395. 

*Ibid., VIII (1816), no. 395. 

3 Long Island Farmer, IX (1829), no. 5; VI (N. S.) (1837), no. 37; 
X (1840), no. 10; Thompson, I, 300. 


of canals or railroads, on Long Island the small sailing 
boats that plied in steadily increasing numbers along both 
shores were competitors of serious importance. The 
rivalry of the turnpike and the sea continued until both 
were temporarily checked by the building of the railroad 
in 1844. 

The value of these turnpikes, however, was not limited 
to the users of the roads. The promoters of ventures 
received their return. Within three years of its incorpo- 
ration, the Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Jamaica Turnpike 
Company declared a dividend of seventy-five cents per 
share. Two years later, in 1814, the dividend was eighty- 
five cents per share. Nor did the profits decrease with 
the passing years. In 1837, the value of the North Coun- 
try Road was suggested by the six hundred and fifty-three 
dollars which comprised the year's income for the short 
piece of road from Flushing east to North Hempstead. 
Seven years later the annual tolls had passed the mark 
of thirteen hundred dollars. The turnpike builders of 
these early days had their reward. 1 

At the very culmination of the turnpike era, and after 
the first reaction resulting from the building of the rail- 
road had passed, came a small movement looking toward 
a still further improvement of highways. On March 16, 
1850, the legislature of the state of New York passed a 
general plank road act, and, on May 4 of the same year, 
books were opened to plank the highway from Brooklyn to 
Jamaica. The movement seems to have sprung up sud- 
denly in Long Island. With the development of the saw- 
mill, the use of planks on highways appeared in many 
places in America. In the years 1850 and 1851, proposals 
for no less than ten different plank roads were being dis- 
cussed in the villages of western Long Island. The net 

i Long Island Star, VI (1814), no. 261; XX (1829), no. 48; Long Island 
Farmer, XIV (1846), no. 11. 


result of the agitation, however, was to lay planks on the 
turnpike from Brooklyn east to Hempstead, and from 
Williamsburg to Flushing. If the turnpike in its day had 
solved in part the question of bridges and of grades, the 
plank road was one of the first serious attempts at a solu- 
tion of the problem of mud. To construct a highway with 
a surface permanently smooth and hard had become the 
vision of the road builders of the middle years of the nine- 
teenth century. The plank road experiment, however, 
proved void of permanent result. Lumber became too 
expensive, and the road was not as desirable as had been 
hoped for. By 1870, failure was evident, and the planks 
were removed from the turnpike between Jamaica and 
Hempstead. Nine years later, the planks were cleared 
from the whole length of the road. But the experiment 
was not entirely in vain. Wood, it is true, could not be 
used, but the idea of a permanent hard surface had come 
to stay. 1 

During the height of the plank road experiments a 
change of attitude toward improved roads appeared 
among the people of Long Island. In 1869, a significant 
note was sounded in one of the local papers. "For years 
past the people of Queens County have been agitating the 
subject of abolishing toll gates that flood almost every 
road in the county. The time had been when it was neces- 
sary to give encouragement to the building of roads by 
allowing the builders a remuneration for their invest- 
ments in this particular. But toll gates have become so 
numerous that they are positively becoming a drawback 
to our prosperity, and a nuisance to the increasing mul- 
titude of travelers. It will be seen by the call in another 
place, that the agitations against toll gates and toll 

iLong Island Farmer, XVIII (1850), no. 1; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LIII 
(1893), no. 329; LVII (1897), no. 252. In 1850, there were 2100 miles of 
plank road in New York State. Long Island Farmer, XVIII (1851), no. 46. 


bridges are taking shape, and that the people are on the 
eve of inaugurating a movement that is likely to lead in 
due time to the abolition on just principles to all con- 
cerned, of the numerous franchises that are so inimical to 
the prosperity of the county." 1 The improvement of one 
generation had become a drag on the next. The agitation 
continued and grew in volume. By 1892, it had borne its 
fruits. In that year the board of supervisors of Queens 
County began the expenditure of several hundred thou- 
sand dollars in the macadamizing of the main roads of the 
region. The day o£ private ownership of highways had 
passed, and that of public management supported by 
taxation was ushered in. 2 

The coming of this last movement for improved roads 
was contemporaneous with an important development in 
American life. About 1876, the old style, high-wheeled 
bicycle was first introduced into the United States from 
England. In May, 1880, the League of American Wheel- 
men, the "L. A. W." as it came to be called, was founded 
at Newport. On June 27, 1887, the < < Liberty Bill, ' ' which 
gave to wheelmen the right of highway, became a part of 
the law of New York State. About 1890, the " safety' ' 
bicycle began to supplant the earlier model, and the pneu- 
matic tire displaced its hard rubber predecessor. The 
advent of the bicycle marks a turning point in the history 
of American highways. A new class of urban people be- 
came interested in better roads. The significance of the 
change is well set forth in an official statement printed by 
the " L. A. W. ' ' in 1895. < ' Within the last year our State 
Division has distributed ten thousand illustrated pam- 
phlets, describing the best methods of making and main- 
taining country roads ; it has secured the passage of a law 
for the erection of guide boards at country road crossings ; 

i Long Island Farmer, XL VIII (1869), no. 36. 
2 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LII (1892), no. 334. 


it has aided in the raising of funds for the construction of 
the cycle path from Prospect Park [Brooklyn] to Coney 
Island [the first highway in America wholly devoted to 
wheelmen] ; it has successfully opposed the obnoxious 
bills introduced in the legislature at Albany for the unfair 
curtailment of wheelmen's rights on the public highways 
and streets ; . . . and has issued five thousand tour books 
for the use of wheelmen and horsemen describing the 
most delightful and popular tours in the United States.' ' 
To the influence of the organized "L. A. W." was added 
that of every individual wheel owner in the state. The 
result was inevitable. Better highways were demanded 
and these must have a surface permanently smooth and 
hard. The dream of the plank road builders of a former 
day was about to be realized. 1 

In its inception this movement for improved highways 
presented two distinct phases. In the counties of Kings 
and Queens, close to the growing city of New York, public 
authorities in the last decade of the nineteenth century 
began the construction of a complete system of macadam 
roads. Suffolk County, however, with its vast extent of 
' ' Pine Barrens," was too far removed from the city to be 
affected at once. The people of this county were not 
ready to expend for " county roads" the vast sums which 
were being laid out in Kings and Queens. On the other 
hand, the demand of the multitude of local cyclists was 
insistent. As a consequence, in Suffolk a compromise was 
effected. If the devotees of the " wheel" desired smooth 
highways, they must defray the cost of the improvement. 
Every bicycle was compelled to have a license, and the 
license tag must be carried on the machine. The money 
thus obtained was turned over to a ' ' Side Path Commis- 
sion," by whom it was expended in the construction of 
smooth, hard bicycle paths along the sides of the main 

iMunsey's Magazine, May, 1896, pp. 136-156. 


thoroughfares. By 1900, a continuous path stretched 
along the south shore from Amityville to Amagansett, 
and on the north side from Greenport to Kiverhead, and 
again from Port Jefferson west to the macadam at Smith- 
town. Besides these main lines, many cross paths made 
the Island a veritable gridiron. 1 

The coming of the automobile with the opening of the 
twentieth century carried forward the movement inaugu- 
rated by the introduction of the bicycle. In the business 
of constructing improved roads, the county which had 
initiated the improvement gave place to the state, and the 
1 * state road, ' ' built and maintained by the state, came into 
being. Among favored sections of the Empire State, 
Long Island has been one of the most fortunate. Eoads 
have been improved to such an extent that at the present 
time from Brooklyn to Orient or Montauk points, the 
Island is covered, as few areas in America are, with a net- 
work of the best of modern highways. The new roads and 
the new vehicles have vitally affected every Long Island 
industry. The truckloads of poultry and produce rolling 
into Brooklyn and New York are evidence of the revolu- 
tion that has come to agriculture. The long night trip to 
market has been shortened and the farmers of the eastern 
end have shaken off their dependence upon both sea and 
railroad. Moreover, other industries have felt the change. 
Motor trucks can now handle the catches of the fishermen 
and the oystermen. Perhaps most important of all, the 
new roads and the automobile have brought the beaches 
of Long Island close to the homes of a great city and have 
made the camper a familiar figure. Nowhere more clearly 
than on Long Island have prosperity and highway im- 
provement gone steadily hand in hand. 

In looking back over the long years of development of 

i Long Island Traveler, XXIX (1899), nos. 4, 5; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 
LX (1900), no. 284. 


Long Island transportation, the ocean appears as the first 
highway for the people of that region. Not only did it 
connect them with distant places, but, in the beginning, 
furnished practically the only means of communication 
among the little frontier villages themselves. For a cen- 
tury and a half, the sea retained an ascendency that 
amounted almost to a monopoly. With the building of 
turnpikes, however, in the first half of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, the development of an artificial, man-made environ- 
ment began. The growth of the industries of the region 
was so great that both sea trade and road traffic steadily 
increased. The advent of the railroad in the middle years 
of the century brought great changes. From that time 
on, the coast trade declined until it sank into relative 
insignificance. As the trip from Montauk to New York 
shrunk from a long to a short haul, the sea as a highway 
was forced to give place, in large measure, to other more 
efficient forms of transportation. Although the railroad 
checked for a time the good roads movement, it did not 
bring it to an end. The old turnpike movement merged 
into the plank road craze. This, in turn, gave place to the 
county and state road movements which began in the clos- 
ing decade of the nineteenth century. Along with the 
highways, the railroads were developed as soon as it be- 
came clear that neither the road nor the railroad could 
perform the other's function. The development of these 
two has completed the * ' artificializing ' ' of the Long Is- 
land environment. 


The greatest enigma in Long Island history is the exist- 
ence in the centre of the Island of an area several miles in 
width and scores of miles in length that is uninhabited 
and uncultivated. The markets of the great city of New 
York have grown to huge proportions. The railroad and 
the macadamized highway have made these accessible to 
every Long Islander. The gardener has covered both the 
western and eastern ends of the Island with his farms. 
He has surrounded but not penetrated the forested region 
in the centre. Almost from the beginning, ill report has 
dogged the progress of the central plains of Long Island. 
Concerning this apron of glacial outwash, covered with 
' ' scrub oak, ' ' much that is evil and little that is good has 
been said. It is a veritable terra incognita, concerning 
which speculations have been many and disputes sharp. 
To tell the story of a controversy fought for more than 
half a century over this region and to describe the battle 
of words between those who have defended it and those 
who have detracted from it seems worth while, for the 
" Barrens' ' are yet unsettled and the problem which they 
present to the people of Long Island is yet unsolved. 

The ill repute of the central plains seems to have had 
its beginning almost in the days of the first settlers. As 
early as the year 1691, a governor of the province of New 
York stated in a formal report to the Board of Trade that 
' ' The middle of the Island is altogether barren. ' n Three- 

i N. Y. Col. Docts., Ill, 797. 


quarters of a century later, on the eve of the war of the 
Revolution, another royal governor reported that prac- 
tically all the land on the Island which could be improved 
had been taken up and was being tilled. 1 "Altogether 
barren," yet the region was covered with forest as were 
the other parts of the new country. This is the enigma of 
the "Pine Barrens." 

Paradoxical though it may seem, the " Barrens' ' early 
began to produce a revenue. At first isolated cabins and, 
later, little settlements of woodchoppers appeared in the 
forests. The product, laboriously worked up for the fire- 
places of New York City, was hauled over almost indis- 
tinguishable wood-roads to the "landings'' which dotted 
both north and south shores. Here it was picked up by 
the many sloops and schooners engaged in the wood busi- 
ness and transported to the dealers on Manhattan Island. 
At the time of the second war with Great Britain, Brook- 
haven township was estimated to be exporting annually 
no less than one hundred thousand cords of wood. The 
business grew as the market at the mouth of the Hudson 
grew. The mosquito fleet of wood-boats became more and 
more numerous and the "landings" plied a steadily busier 
trade. By the middle of the century, cordwood had be- 
come one of the important resources of the Island. 2 

A serious reversal, however, occurred, when, in 1844, 
the Long Island Railroad pushed its right of way through 
the heart of the wooded country. Unprecedented forest 
fires followed in its wake. "The extent of these conflagra- 
tions," wrote a local observer, "can scarcely be conceived 
of without ocular examination. To talk of thousands of 
acres, is scarcely an approximation to the reality. In 

i N. Y. Col. Docts., VIII, 441. 

2Dwight, Travels in New England and New YorTc (1822), III, 302-303; 
Spafford, Gazatteer of the State of New YorTc (1813), p. 282; New York 
State Census (1865), p. 414. 


several places entire forests for eight or ten miles in 
length and from two to four in breadth have been com- 
pletely swept over by the devouring element. ,n The 
name, " Barrens,' ' took on a new and sinister meaning. 

Great as was the devastation, the industry did not dis- 
appear. As late as the close of the Civil War, Suffolk 
remained the first wood-cutting county in the state. But 
the latter years of the nineteenth century saw a decline. 
The fleet of small wood-boats gave way before the compe- 
tition of the railroad, and the woodchoppers in the 
" scrub oak" became less numerous. They never disap- 
peared altogether and, today, piles of wood, still found 
at the sidings of the little Suffolk County stations, bespeak 
an industry that still exists to turn one of the products of 
the ' ' Pine Barrens ' ' into revenue. 

About the middle of the century, a few years subse- 
quent to the ravages of the forest fires, began the contro- 
versy as to whether the lands of the " scrub oak" could or 
could not be cultivated with profit. Men interested in the 
region proclaimed its inherent fertility. Others were 
sceptical. The Sag Harbor Express, at the eastern end 
of the Island, had been watching, during the few preced- 
ing years, an effort which was being publicly made to 
spread the report that the "Pine Barrens" could be made 
productive. In 1850, Mr. Starr, editor of the New York 
Farmer and Mechanic, visited the wild lands about Lake- 
ville and pronounced them fertile and tillable. Other men 
began to assume the same attitude. It seemed time to 
give the public the facts in the case as viewed by farmers 
who had been brought up within sight of the "Barrens" 
and who had shot many a squirrel and partridge in its 
fastnesses. The Express, therefore, in an elaborate arti- 
cle summed up its conclusions as follows : "Much has been 
said of late years concerning the adaptability of these 

i Prime, p. 59. 


waste lands f or_ agricultural purposes ; many bitter disap- 
pointments and heavy pecuniary losses have resulted 
from incorrect or partial information on this matter, fur- 
nished chiefly by those who were pecuniarily interested. 
The truth of the matter is this : the soil is very variable 
even in the same neighborhood, some portions being a 
deep loam, while at no great distance it may be thin, 
gravelly and poor. The labor necessary to clear it is very 
great, $30 per acre being the lowest sum at which it can 
be done, so that if purchased as low as $5 per acre, by the 
time it is fit for cultivation and inclosed, it will have cost 
[more] than good tillable land can be obtained for else- 
where. . . . That farms can be made from these waste 
lands is certain, as the thing has been done . . . but the 
thing won't pay at present." 1 

In the following year, no less a paper than the widely 
read farm journal, The American Agriculturist, entered 
the Long Island controversy and exposed, for the benefit 
of its readers, what it considered a serious real estate 
fraud. "For some years past there have been extensive 
efforts to bring into favorable notice certain tracts situ- 
ated on Long Island. These efforts have consisted of 
advertisements in distant agricultural and other news- 
papers . . . the good qualities of a majority of the mag- 
nificent farming lands advertised there . . . are on 
paper." 2 Apparently the "Pine Barrens" were not 
always fortunate in their early promoters. Such attacks 
as these of the Agriculturist and the Express did not tend 
to diminish the odium which already rested upon the 

In the same year that the Agriculturist issued its warn- 
ing against real estate "sharpers," appeared the first in 
a considerable list of earnest and able defenders of the 

il (1859), no. 14. 
2 XIX (1860), p. 134. 


wild country. In that year, 1860, W. C. Watson, owner 
of a farm in the " scrub oak," published a pamphlet 
entitled The Plains of Long Island. It breathed an opti- 
mism like that of land booms on a western frontier. 
Within * ' a few years a new epoch seems to have opened 
upon the scene. . . . Productive farms and highly culti- 
vated gardens are springing into existence and beam 
amid these wilds like oases in a desert. ,, Watson, point- 
ing to the "Hempstead Plains,' ' once considered infertile 
and now covered with farms, urged men to come to the 
central plains and bring about the same transformation 
there. Here was a sharp reply to the opinions of the 

About the time of the appearance of the Watson 
pamphlet, the management of the Long Island Eailroad, 
just entering upon a policy of developing the resources 
of the Island, began to consider the possibility of filling 
the extensive area of the "Pine Barrens' ' with settlers. 
A committee, sent into the region, reported that the lands 
between Farmingdale and Yaphank, "particularly those 
between Deer Park and Lakeland, are superior in natural 
soil to any lands now under cultivation on the south coun- 
try road or through the old settlements south of the mid- 
dle country road . . . and that with the same amount of 
tillage and manuring the yield would be equally as great 
if not superior." 1 

This first effort of the railroad seems to have been pro- 
ductive of little result besides the report itself. Nineteen 
years went by and the "Barrens" still remained unoccu- 
pied. Again the road, under a new management, made an 
effort to advertise the possibilities of the "scrub oak" 
country. An elaborate pamphlet, The New Long Island, 
picturing the opportunities offered by the central plains, 

i Long Island Railroad Committee on the Wild Lands of Long Island, 
Eeport (1860), p. 11. 


was distributed far and wide. The railroad offered free 
transportation and a fifty per cent freight reduction on 
east bound traffic to all new settlers coming into the 
region. The road seems to have gone so far as to try to 
interest financiers of New York and Brooklyn in a project 
for utilizing the waste lands for villages for mechanics 
and laborers who would commute into the metropolis. In 
spite of all efforts, however, the second attempt bore little 
more fruit than the first. 

By the year 1880, the discussion concerning the avail- 
ability of the "Pine Barrens' ' had become of sufficient im- 
portance to attract the attention of a prominent eastern 
agriculturist, D. D. T. Moore, editor of Moore's Rural 
New Yorker. He felt that lands lying so near the New 
York City markets should be developed, if possible. Two 
or three times he visited the area, making careful examina- 
tions of the soil. He "did not discover an acre that was 
not susceptible of production." He did find, however, 
that public opinion was "strongly against the lands." 
"Rarely have I spoken with a native of the island or to 
a New York or Brooklyn man who has not denounced the 
lands in the most unmeasured terms." Moore deter- 
mined to take part in the controversy and, on August 24, 
1882, published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle not only an 
account of his investigations but other facts which seemed 
to him conclusive proof of the productivity of the region. 
He referred to the heavy crops raised with little fertilizer 
on the Suffolk County Poor Farm, in the heart of the wild 
country, and he pointed out the significance of the appear- 
ance of a chain of eleven villages which had sprung up 
along the main line of the Long Island Railroad in the 
centre of the "Barrens." This seemed to him sufficient 
evidence that the "scrub oak" area was fertile and pro- 
ductive. To all appearances, however, the effort was use- 


less. The scepticism of the local farmer remained un- 
broken and the enigma of the "Pine Barrens' ' unsolved. 

The nineteenth century passed into the twentieth with 
the central plains still undeveloped. Of prospects for an 
immediate change there were none. For the third time 
the Long Island Railroad bestirred itself to effort. 
"When Mr. Ralph Peters became [its] President . . . , 
his inspection tours of the Island showed him much to be 
done, and most forcibly brought before him the fact that 
the vast acreage of idle land . . . must be developed for 
its own sake and for that of its railroad. ... As practical 
demonstration is vastly superior to written statements, 
the President determined to establish Experimental Sta- 
tions at various points on the Island and to give the public 
the results of the work." The development of these 
demonstration farms was given into the hands of H. B. 
Fullerton. "Early in August, 1905, the following mes- 
sage came from Mr. Peters 'Find the worst 10 acres on 
the North Shore upon which to establish Experimental 
Station No. 1.' m 

The first farm was located near Wading River and the 
second at Medford. In less than half a dozen years each 
was changed from a "scrub oak" waste to a garden 
covered luxuriously with every kind of fruit and vege- 
table that Long Island afforded. In the raising of three 
hundred and eighty varieties of plant growth on the Wad- 
ing River farm during the first year after it was cleared 
the fertilizers used were limited to stable manure, wood 
ashes, and a rye cover crop. And this was in the heart of 
the "Barrens." In 1906, Edith Loring Fullerton pub- 
lished The Lure of the Land, A Call to Long Island, which 
gave an account of the undertaking. Three years later 
the little volume went into a second edition. Moreover, 
for a time the work of the experiment stations was made 

i Fullerton, The Lure of the Land (1906), pp. 9-11. 


known to the farmers of Long Island and to any others 
interested, through a small publication known as The 
Long Island Agronomist. Attracted by the publicity thus 
given to the demonstration and by interest in a contro- 
versy more than half a century old, hundreds of visitors 
came to the farms to examine them. The undertaking 
seemed from every angle a success. 

To the observer from the outside it would seem that 
Fullerton had proved the case for the productivity of the 
"Pine Barrens." The fact remains, however, that, al- 
though more than a decade has passed since the founding 
to the Wading River station, the "Pine Barrens" still 
exist, a great expanse of practically unoccupied forest. 
Although the case is proved, it may be that the problem 
is yet unsolved. An analysis of the forces at work at the 
present time in the "scrub oak" country may serve to 
clarify somewhat the difficulties in the way of solving this 
problem of its development. 

The one great factor which dominates the future of the 
"Pine Barrens," as it does so many phases of Long Is- 
land life, is the steady eastward growth of the giant city 
of New York. During the last fifty years, it has overrun 
Kings County and extended its buildings and pavements 
far into Queens. In front of the advancing city has been 
driven an ever increasing multitude of truckmen and gar- 
deners, whose land is constantly becoming too valuable 
for agricultural use. These men have been crowded into 
the narrow strips of farming country that fringe the two 
sides of the Island and in great numbers have been 
pushed against the western end of the "Barrens" them- 
selves. The result has been the shoving back of the 
border of the "scrub oak" country, a little at the north 
and south and several miles on the west. Relatively few 
of these dispossessed farmers have been bold enough to 
venture into the interior of the wild country. The move- 


ment has been directed, in the main, against the periphery. 
In this way, pressing economic necessity has, for the first 
time, begun to play an important part in the history of the 
"Pine Barrens.' ' 

In the interior of the central plains the growth of New 
York City has had a somewhat different result from that 
at the outer edge. On the wooded acres of the "scrub 
oak" country, "cities," broadly laid out and attractively 
named, have made their appearance. In 1896, Hyde's 
Map of Long Island showed six such ventures, but in its 
edition of 1915 no less than thirty-eight "cities," 
"manors," and "parks," could be counted between Kon- 
konkoma and Eiverhead. The effect of this increase in 
real-estate speculation has been immediate. Large areas 
of the most desirably placed land, which might otherwise 
have been turned into farms, can now be purchased only 
as "city" lots at an inflated valuation. Although the 
actual area occupied by these projects is large, their influ- 
ence is even greater. The inflated valuation of the ' ' city ' ' 
property has communicated itself to adjoining lands, 
until almost imperceptibly the selling price of the greater 
part of the "Pine Barrens" has been artificially raised. 
This increase in the initial investment presents a serious 
obstacle to the agricultural settler, who desires to estab- 
lish his home on a little farm which he must clear himself. 
Not only does it hinder agricultural development, but the 
questionable character of so many of the real-estate ven- 
tures tends to keep alive the ill repute of the region and 
to act as a further deterrent to settlement. Not all of the 
real-estate projects are the schemes of unprincipled 
"sharpers." Some of these "cities" have already built 
houses for their people. A few of these projects are 
bound to be profoundly affected, as the villages of Queens 
County have been, by the eastward growth of New York. 
It is this uncertainty as to the future of the real-estate 


program that makes the problem of the "Pine Barrens" 
so complex. 

Leaving out of consideration the new element intro- 
duced by the establishment of Camp Upton at Yaphank, 
it may be said that two antithetical forces have appeared 
in the "scrub oak" region. One is the real-estate specu- 
lator in the interior and the other the garden farmer at 
the outer border. The eastward advance of New York 
City is a powerful stimulus to each. That, in time, the 
"Pine Barrens" are doomed to succumb seems indispu- 
table. Only the future can reveal which of these two 
factors or what sort of combination of both will conquer 
that broad stretch of plains country now under the do- 
minion of the ' ' scrub oak. ' ' 


Theke is a phase in the development of Long Island life 
that is full of significance for one who desires to under- 
stand Americans of the present. We are today a people 
of games, sports, and out-of-door pleasures. The ten- 
sion and strain of a hurried life is relieved on the golf 
links, in the trout brook, or on the diamond. We have 
learned to play. In this respect, however, there is a strik- 
ing contrast between the common man of the twentieth 
century and his forefathers of a hundred years ago, a 
contrast not without meaning for the present generation. 
In a peculiar sense, play has come to be an important 
part of Long Island life. Lying at the doors of the Ameri- 
can metropolis, the Island has become the playground of 
New York. The story of how the people of this great 
centre of life and civilization came out on it for pleasure 
differs but little from the larger story of how the whole 
nation came out to play. The details vary with the pecu- 
liarities of the locality, but the main phases of the Long 
Island and the national movements are the same. Many 
volumes on our shelves record the long and complex his- 
tory of the methods by which the people of our country 
have got a living. Few men, however, have had time to 
tell the story of the evolution of fun. Perhaps it will not 
be out of place to pause for a moment to trace some of the 
phases in a development which, some day, will be recog- 
nized as one of the great revolutions in American life. 
The Revolutionary War left the American people 


young in national life and buoyant in national hope. 
Tasks of almost limitless extent lay before them as they 
chopped away the forests of the Atlantic seaboard and 
blazed trails through the valleys and passes of the Ap- 
palachians. They were, in the main, a farmer and a sea- 
going folk with little wealth, little social intercourse, and 
practically no leisure. There was little play because there 
was no time for it and, also, because the austere creed of 
New England openly frowned upon it. Men's lives were 
spent in making a living, as they battled with a primitive 
environment. Only in relatively few instances did they 
acquire sufficient capital to secure opportunity for breath- 
ing spells. Such a life, barren of the lighter things, must 
not, however, be misunderstood. Tasks and standards 
differed then from those of a later time. There were 
parties and assemblies. There were training days and 
festivals. In the larger towns could be found an occa- 
sional show place. There were, however, practically no 
sports and no organized games. Life itself was the great 
game and success the prize it offered. Perhaps it was 
inevitable that across such an existence, unrelieved by 
the vicarious joy and suffering of the world of sport, 
should be cast the dark shadow of excess. Drinking was 
a fundamental part of the social fabric. In the gray 
barrenness of this life, however, were bright spots, here 
and there. The nineteenth century had scarcely begun, 
when, among Long Island people, appeared three distinct 
developments that were destined to lay the foundation 
for the evolution to come. 

One of these was the turf, that sport which has quick- 
ened men's blood and lightened men's purses since the 
time of the Romans. On Long Island, horse-racing was 
born before the end of the seventeenth century. The 
worthy burghers of New York were wont to repair to a 
plain "toward the middle of Long Island ... 16 miles 


long and 4 broad, where you shall find neither stick nor 
stone to hinder horses heels, or endanger them in their 
races. ' ' During the eighteenth century the people of New 
York, like the gentlemen planters of the southern colonies, 
established racing on a secure footing. There were annual 
racing events first on the Hempstead Plains and later at 
Beaver Pond in Jamaica. The silver cup of the early 
days was replaced by purses which sometimes amounted 
to as much as one hundred pounds sterling. The gentle- 
men and ladies of the small city at the southern end of 
Manhattan Island, traveling on horseback or in chairs 
and chaises, came in what seemed prodigious numbers to 
view the spectacles. Two or three thousand persons were 
large crowds for those primitive days. 1 

It may well be said, however, that the first quarter of 
the nineteenth century saw the turf become the national 
sport of the young United States. The planters of the 
cotton country, the gentlemen of the new state of Ken- 
tucky, and many men of the commercial Middle States 
aided in its advancement with a generous expenditure of 
time, money, and interest. ' * In his old age Diomed, who 
had won the initial Derby at Epsom Downs in 1780, came 
to America to breed a great family of racing horses on a 
Virginia stock farm. ' ' "With the passing years, two types 
of horses began to appear. The South bred for speed and 
the North for "bottom." Mason and Dixon's line took 
on a new significance. Sectionalism appeared and led in- 
evitably to an "irrepressable conflict." March 27, 1823, 
saw the first trial of strength between the North and the 
South. On the aptly named Union Course at Jamaica, 
Long Island, the sporting world was "gratified with the 
greatest match race ever run in the United States. The 

i Quotations from the New York Post Boy, June 4, 1750, the New York 
Mercury, October 9, 1764, and the New York Journal, August 8, 1794, all 
found in The History of Queens County (1882), pp. 57-59. 


stakes were $20,000 each side, making $40,000 dependent 
on the issue, independent of private betting, which was 
great. The assemblage on the ground was immense, and 
we understand strangers from very distant parts of the 
Union had come to witness the sport. Van Ranst's horse, 
* Eclipse, ' who stood, as a racer, the highest in the coun- 
try, was matched by Long's horse, i Henry,' the pride of 
the southern sportsmen.' ' Rufus King, the statesman of 
the Empire State, and the fiery John Randolph of Vir- 
ginia, sitting side by side " under the big tree on high 
seats," looked down upon a crowd of forty thousand peo- 
ple that cheered " Eclipse" to victory. A nation before 
the days of the telegraph awaited the news of the outcome 
with some of the excitement that attends the decision of 
a world series. The sporting blood of America was be- 
ginning to stir. 1 

Once begun, the rivalry between the sections increased. 
Two more meets were held on courses outside of Long 
Island. Interest grew apace. It reached a climax in the 
greatest race of all held again on Union Course, May 13, 
1845. "Peytona," of the South, before a crowd of seventy 
thousand persons, met and vanquished "Fashion," the 
pride of the North. l ' The shout that rent the welkin was 
the signal for the transfer of at least one hundred thou- 
sand dollars from the pockets of the North to the pockets 
of the South. " " Peytona ' ' won not only the race but the 
series. 2 

It was the last contest. A different form of the rivalry 
between the sections was taking a sinister turn. Polk had 
been elected president in the previous autumn on a pro- 
Texas platform. The ugly possibility of a war with 
Mexico for the purpose of conquering more slave terri- 
tory was daily becoming more apparent. There were 

iLong Island Star, XIII (1823), no. 721. 
2 New York Tribune, May 14, 1845. 


recriminations and heartburnings in both North and 
South. It became difficult for gentlemen from the two 
regions to meet any longer in friendly contest. "With the 
severance of turf relations between the estranged sec- 
tions, the role of horse-racing as the national sport came 
to an end. It had, however, served its purpose. It had 
stirred the souls of rich and poor alike, and had driven 
street urchin and statesman into an abandon of joy or 
grief as the idol of his fancy won or lost. Although horse- 
racing was to continue and even increase, it played its 
most significant part in the first half of the nineteenth 
century. In those years it aroused an interest in sport 
which was to be the foundation of the games that were to 
come after the Civil War was over. 

To believe that the term "age of sports' ' adequately 
describes the revolution that was to come to American 
life in the latter part of the nineteenth century is to mis- 
understand the whole movement. The increase in games 
and sports was only a part of a greater development. 
This was nothing less than a discovery of the out of doors. 
Americans, from the beginning of their history, have been 
an out-of-door people, living and working in the open air. 
Originally a nation of farmers and seamen, they knew 
little of the restrictions of indoor life. With the first 
years of the nineteenth century, however, a change ap- 
peared. Industrialism began to make itself felt and the 
young United States groped its way toward economic 

The large city, a factor hitherto almost unknown in 
American life, made its appearance. The factory worker 
and the office man became familiar types. A large and 
rapidly increasing group in a people, born and bred to the 
open, were finding the out of doors a luxury. The new 
urban environment, moreover, was often far from attrac- 
tive. The arts of city-making and city-managing were 


being learned by costly experience. New York City was 
little different from the rest. Its cobblestone streets were 
lighted only at infrequent intervals by dim and flickering 
lamps. Its closely huddled structures of wood had only 
the most primitive fire protection. The water supply 
came mainly from the householders ' wells. These early 
cities were breeding places for disease. Within such an 
environment the movement back to the out of doors 
began. So far as Long Island was concerned this move- 
ment had two quite distinct phases, represented, on the 
one hand, by the man who went into the woods to hunt 
and, on the other, by the society that sought the watering 

Few areas in the East were better adapted for shooting 
and angling than Long Island in the first half of the nine- 
teenth century. The unbroken forest which stretched for 
more than fifty miles through the heart of the region was 
full of game of all varieties. The tale is told by a local 

* t Tn e grouse, the pheasant and the quail 
In turn we take by changes, 
Or hunt the buck with flippant tail 
As through the wood he ranges. 

" Sometimes the tim'rous trout we wait 
Along the streamlet's border, 
With well dissembled fly or bait, 
And tackle in good order. 

1 ' Or catch the huge enormous bass, 
Be his course e'er so drastic 
While sitting on the verdant grass, 
Close by the groves at Mastic. ' ' 

Mastic, however, was famous for more than bass. To- 
gether with the whole south shore, it was the haunt, at 


certain seasons of the year, of numberless wild fowl. The 
geese, brant, and ducks which collected in great flocks 
along the marshy shores of the southern bays offered 
sport to hundreds of men and boys. 

To the woods and streams of Long Island came in great 
numbers hunters and fishermen. Some of them were local 
farmers, bred to the rod and gun since pioneer days. 
Others were merchants and office men from the rapidly 
growing city at the mouth of the Hudson. The hunting 
or fishing excursion into Long Island was as familiar in 
those times as the trip to the north woods is today. These 
men who came out of the stuffy city were simply reassert- 
ing the natural instincts of an out-of-door people. They 
were the advance guard of that army of pleasure seekers 
that one day was to invade the region. In the forties, 
however, the movement came to an end. Forest fires 
swept the game life from the Island, except the wild fowl 
which came to the south shore. The hunter was forced to 
seek his prey in other haunts, but he had done his work ; 
he had brought back to the early city a point of view and 
a body of information that was to aid in the stimulating 
of the later camping movement. 

Not all of the people of New York who were interested 
in the out of doors, desired to go into the woods with a 
gun. There were some who sought the shore where the 
surf of the Atlantic fringed the sloping sands with white. 
The first of these were of the very small leisure class of 
the city that was beginning to appear as wealth increased. 
Far Eockaway Beach was neither so far from the city as 
to be inaccessible nor so near as to be overrun by the com- 
monalty. Far Eockaway became one of the earliest 
watering places of New York and of America. Before 
1810, a turnpike connected Brooklyn with the beach. Over 
this "Appian Way" rolled the carriages and cantered 
the horses of New York's elite. Beautiful ladies and 


polished gentlemen met and met again as they flitted along 
the turnpike to and from the fashionable resort. By 
1811, stages were making regular trips and were adver- 
tising special accommodations for the convenience of the 
week-end visitor. In those days, when it was five hours 
from the ferry to the beach, "by far the greatest portion 
of the genteel company from New York and elsewhere 
chose this watering place in preference to any other in 
the United States.' n 

Greatness, however, still lay in the future. The beach 
developed with the city. As the fame of New York was 
noised abroad, so, also, was that of Far Rockaway. Dur- 
ing the thirties, when crowds of the "best" people were 
seeking the little peninsula to enjoy the "sublimity of the 
situation,' ' Far Rockaway reached the dazzling climax 
of a career of splendor. On the first day of June, 1833, 
was laid, "with appropriate ceremonies,' ' the corner 
stone of the Marine Pavilion, soon to become a name to 
conjure with. It was a spacious structure, "built by an 
association of between 70 and 80 of the most distinguished 
families in the city of New York." For nearly a decade 
and a half, this ' ' splendid edifice ' ' symbolized the glory of 
Far Rockaway and the magnificence of its society. Then, 
of a sudden, it burned. From the smoking ruins the devo- 
tees of yesterday turned away as courtiers from fallen 
greatness. Far Rockaway, an object of pride no longer, 
slipped back, unnoticed, into the commonplace. 2 The elite, 
more interested in fashions than in nature, worshiped 
new sublimities. The Far Rockaway episode was, after 
all, but a bit of froth on a great stream. It served to 
show, however, which way the current was running. The 

iLong Island Star, II (1811), no. 102; Mitchell, The Picture of New 
York (1818), p. 325. 

2 Thompson, II, 44; Long Island via the Long Island Eailroad (1868), 
pp. 45-46. 


people of the cities were beginning to grow restive under 
the limitations of urban life. Although society at first 
insisted upon artificiality, the time for the wholesome ap- 
preciation of the out of doors was not far distant. 

The decade of the forties saw a distinct turning point 
in the play-life of Long Island. During those years, the 
Marine Pavilion, with all its splendor burned. The con- 
flagrations, lighted by the locomotives, swept the game 
life from the forests. And the last of the great races be- 
tween the North and the South was run. These three 
Long Island developments of the first half of the nine- 
teenth century, hunting and fishing, horse-racing, and the 
fashionable watering place, were, however, the first im- 
portant steps away from a life in which there were few 
games and little play. They were the beacons lighting the 
way for the changes to come. 


The appropriation of the wild country of America has 
awaited two things. There could be no considerable de- 
velopment of mountains, lakes, or seashore until a large 
percentage of the people of the nation lived in cities. Fur- 
thermore, there could be no development until the wild 
country was made accessible to the urban centres by 
quick and cheap transportation. It would be reasonable 
to expect, therefore, that the out-of-door movement 
would begin in the sixties and the seventies, for it was 
in those years that America began building up with such 
tremendous rapidity that great business and industrial 
organization which called the monster city into being. In 
those years, also, thousands of miles of rails were being 
laid and the railroad fragments which had existed before 
the Civil War were being consolidated into great systems. 
One of the very factors that was causing the growth of 
the indoor population in America was at the same time 
giving those people a chance to escape from their new en- 
vironment. The reason that the Far Eockaway develop- 
ment came so early is to be found in the fact that New 
York City was one of the first big population centres and 
Far Rockaway was near enough to its cobblestone streets 
to be readily accessible by way of the turnpike. 

The first real manifestation of the new era in Long 
Island life was the country home. Back in the days of 
Robert Livingston and Ezra L'Hommedieu the gentry of 
America had been to a large extent a landed aristocracy. 


As the years of the nineteenth century passed, wealth 
shifted from the farm to the city. With the shift came the 
captains of industry and the giant fortunes. There were 
some among these men who chose to signalize their suc- 
cess by acquiring estates and building country homes. 
They wished to combine the advantages of the city with 
the beauty and wholesomeness of the country, but could 
not do so until the railroad had made the country home 
accessible from the office. As soon as the tracks of the 
early roads were laid, the villages to the east of Brooklyn 
felt the stir of the new life. In Jamaica and Hempstead, 
but more particularly in Flushing and the towns of the 
north shore, homes of the wealthy began to appear. The 
Civil War was barely over when the beautiful hills of 
Shelter Island, topped with a great-armed windmill, be- 
gan to be covered with exquisite gardens and houses. As 
the unsightly menhaden factory disappeared from the 
beach, this ancient refuge for the oppressed Quakers 
started upon its career of greatness. The completion to 
Greenport of the old main line of the Long Island Bail- 
road made the change possible. 1 

Branches running to other parts of the Island brought 
further development. From the escarpment of the north 
shore many a villa looked out over the Sound, just as the 
home of many a country gentleman of England looks 
down upon the Channel from the shoulder of the chalk 
cliffs. Other estates hid their gardens and buildings in 
the wooded country that borders the South Country Eoad 
near the quiet waters of Great South Bay. Perhaps the 
finest of all were the Hamptons. East Hampton, the home 
of Payne and "Home Sweet Home," began to feel the 
change in the seventies. 2 Southampton was quick to fol- 

iSpafford, Gazatteer of the State of New YorTc (1824), p. 177; Thomp- 
son, I, 473; Hough, Gazatteer of the State of New YorTc (1872), p. 547. 

2 Sag Harbor Express, XIII (1871), no. 11; XIV (1872), no. 10; XXI 
(1880), no. 30. 


low. The ancient villages of fishermen and farmers un- 
derwent a change seldom found outside the Arabian 
Nights. With what amazement would the early settler 
have beheld the cabin-fringed streets of their frontier 
hamlets now bordered by all the beauty that wealth and 
good taste could create. These country homes which are 
to be found everywhere on the Island are some of the most 
beautiful in America. In reality they are part of the 
great city at the mouth of the Hudson. Primitive Long 
Island has ceased to exist. 

But wealth has not usurped the whole of the beautiful 
Island, which is famous for its poor as well as its rich. 
The same out-of-door movement which created the coun- 
try estate brought into being Coney Island. The signifi- 
cance of Coney Island is great, not only for New York, 
but for the nation. It is the forerunner and originator 
of the American White City. The story of this pioneer 
amusement park is not without its value. 

When the Marine Pavilion at Far Rockaway was yet a 
blaze of glory, and the development of country homes had 
not yet begun, Coney Island was "a place of great resort 
for strangers in the summer season.' ' Year after year, 
picnickers and bathers came in greater and greater num- 
bers. The shifty sand dunes of the little island began to 
be covered with decrepit bathhouses, and the stunted bay 
bushes of the region to " bloom out riotously during the 
summer months with bathing outfits hung upon them to 
dry." The Coney of the sixties and the seventies was a 
curious and picturesque rendezvous for the less attrac- 
tive people of the great city. "At the lower end of the 
island there is a wharf to which the steam boats come, 
and when one of them has disgorged its contents, very 
motley is the crowd that winds its way along the rush-laid 
path that leads to the beach. The women and children 
usually outnumber the men, and, as is generally the case 


in New York assemblages that do not rally round the 
standards of fashion, the German element is largely 
represented in the throng. . . . Holiday attire, not gay, 
but of the picnic kind is the rule. . . . Several flashy men 
are to be seen in the crowd; men with velvet coats, and 
having Alaska diamonds stuck in the breasts of their 
filagree shirts, men curled and oiled within an inch of 
their wild lives. These are gamblers from New York, 
though they usually describe themselves as ' sports/ and 
they do a stroke of business at the island in more ways 
than one. . . . Out of the bathing houses come tumbling 
indiscriminately, men, women and children. . . . The 
women flap about in the water and scream like fowls to 
which that element is natural. . . . Numbers of the men 
lie wallowing for hours in the sand, in which they roll like 
wild beasts, rubbing it madly into their hair and plaster- 
ing themselves all over with it. . . . The scene upon the 
beach and in the water alike is a very rough one." 1 So 
went the day until the late boats took the merrymakers 
back to the tenements of the Bowery and the East Side. 
The reputation of the beach was such that a trip to the 
island was an adventure not to be related in polite society. 
In 1874, the ' l development ' ' of Coney Island began. 
The surf, the beach, and the fresh salt air proved insuffi- 
cient to meet the demands of the jaded throngs who came 
out to play. Sensations and the glare of lights must sup- 
plement nature. So it happened that, in 1874, Coney Is- 
land took the lead in the development of cheap and gaudy 
amusement — a place which it has maintained to this day. 
In that year, when its reputation was so foul that his best 
friends prophesied failure, Mr. Culver began laying the 
tracks of the Prospect Park and Coney Island Kailroad. 
Two years later, he acquired the great steel tower which 
had been one of the features of the Philadelphia Centen- 

i Shanley, Atlantic Monthly, XXXIV (1874), 310 ff. 


nial of 1876. This was the first of the entertainment fea- 
tures that, within a few years, brought revolution to 
Coney. By the middle of the eighties, the new Coney 
Island was well on its way to fame. The scraggly sand 
dunes were covered with a city of amusements. There 
were shooting galleries and spaces marked off for archery 
practice. At the beach an * ' Aquarium ' ' was built. Near 
it were the flaring posters and hoarse barkers of a "Mu- 
seum of Living Wonders" and a "Sea Side Museum." 
Above the welter of eating places, dancing pavilions, and 
dram shops rose the steel tower of the observatory from 
which also sublimities could be seen. Greatest, however, 
among the marvels was the famous i ' Camera Obscura. ' ' 
It was a black, boxlike room into which the light was ad- 
mitted through a narrow slit and images cast on a screen 
opposite. It was a veritable pinhole camera in which a 
dozen or so people could sit and, on the screen, watch the 
1 ' moving pictures ' ' of beach and boulevard. i ' To particu- 
larize the wonderful variety of l side shows, ' games, min- 
strelsies, ' cheap Johns,' and entertainment of every sort 
. . . would be impossible. It is a veritable Vanity Fair." 1 
After the completion of the ' ' Culver Road, ' ' the rise of 
Coney was rapid. In 1877, a company was formed for the 
erection of a steel pier for the landing of steamers. In 
1883, the Iron Steamboat Company advertised its boats. 
During the nineties, new roads were planned and built. 
New York City belched forth its multitudes to swarm over 
the island in unrestrained search for new and greater 
sensations. In these later years, Coney changed with the 
changing times. The * ' Camera Obscura ' ' has given place 
to the "movie"; the great tower has been superseded by 
the roller-coaster, the last word in the manufacture of 
thrills. But the bathhouses, the shooting galleries, the 

i Collner's Coney Island Pictorial, I (1881), no. 2; Stillwell, "History of 
Coney Island," in Stiles 's History of Kings County (1884), I, 196, 203, 204. 


merry-go-rounds, and the dancing pavilions have re- 
mained and multiplied. Externals have been altered, but 
through all the years of evolution Coney has, at heart, 
remained the same ; cheap, gaudy, rough, sensational, and, 
withal, a fraud. 

"They used to talk of Bedlam and they used to talk of 

In allusion to confusion of exaggerated style. 
But in all the fact and fable, since the days of Cain and 

No metaphor is better for the same than is an isle 
That I wot of, that I got of late so generous a lot of 
That I recollect the style and charavari of that island 
With a smile and shall do so for a while.' ' 

The "Coneyizing" of the southern shore has continued 
until the multitudes flock to the beaches as far east as 
Eockaway. Bizarre, indeed, has been this result of the 
out-of-door movement. But neither the amusement park 
nor the country estate has been the centre of the great 
development. They represent the extremes. The out- 
of-door revolution did not really come until the ordinary, 
humdrum citizen of the city began to send his family away 
from the hot streets in the summer months. As early as 
the fifties and sixties, city people began coming to the 
bays and coves of Long Island. The sea was entering the 
lives of multitudes whose business was not on the ocean. 

At first the people came as "boarders" and filled the 
inns and many of the private houses of the shore villages. 
Ambitious wives of farmers and fishermen found an op- 
portunity to increase the family income. Many a bay- 
man himself found it profitable to turn entertainer in the 
summer months and to spend his time taking out the sum- 
mer people in his boat for fishing or pleasure trips. As 
railroad facilities increased, the summer hotel came into 


existence. On Fire Island Beach, near the inlet, one of 
the most fashionable was built. Not only was there a 
splendid surf but the waters off this beach offered the 
best bluefishing of the southern shore. After the pio- 
neer "boarder" had blazed the way, the cottager came to 
appropriate the more attractive corners of the beach. 
Then many a tent began to brighten the dull sand with 
its spot of white. The men and women of the city were 
reasserting the fundamental out-of-door instincts. 1 

The Long Island Railroad, during the last quarter of 
the nineteenth century, made many efforts to bring to the 
attention of urban people the opportunities for camping 
that Long Island offered. These attempts were crowned 
with undeniable success, though it was not the railroad 
that played the leading part in the advertising of the 
region. About 1890, the new "safety bicycle' ' began 
rapidly to replace the high-wheeled type that had been 
used for a decade and more. The new bicycle became 
the craze of the day. Men, women, and children, the old 
and the young, took to the highway with one accord. The 
almost immediate result was better roads or "cycle 
paths. ' ' Bicycle clubs were formed, not only in New York 
and Brooklyn, but in practically every village on the Is- 
land. Patchogue became a great rendezvous for cycling 
parties from the cities and the small towns. The bicycle 
carnival held every year at that place during the latter 
part of the nineties was an event long to be remembered. 
Almost every hamlet on Long Island contained an "offi- 
cial" hotel of the League of American Wheelmen as well 
as a "consul" to look after the interests of members of 
that organization. The bicycle, as nothing before had 
done, took the people of America out of doors. Cycle 

i Long Island via the Long Island Railroad (1868), pp. 19-53; French, 
Gasatteer of the State of New York (1860), pp. 547-632; Sag Harbor Ex- 
press, III (1863), no. 14. 


parties left few corners of Long Island unexplored. After 
men and women, coming on their " wheels,' ' had actually 
seen the attractions, it was but a small step to the cottage 
and the summer camp. 1 

With the coming of the twentieth century, the automo- 
bile has eclipsed the bicycle, though its function is the 
same as that of its predecessor. By means of it the camp 
and the countinghouse are but a few minutes apart and 
the exploring excursion of a day or a week is within the 
reach of everyone. Consequently there are few beaches 
in the whole Long Island shore that do not have their 
summer hotels or their campers. And with the rest, has 
come the last development in the movement, the boys' 
and the girls ' camps where children are trained, not only 
to appreciate the out of doors, but to live, work, and play 
in the wild country. A civilization which has developed 
a highly artificial environment is, instinctively, returning 
to the roughness and simplicity from which it came. 

The campers, however, were but one phase of the great 
out-of-door movement that changed American life in the 
last quarter of the nineteenth century. During those 
years, the people of America, for the first time in their 
history, really learned how to play. After the close of 
the Civil War, game after game was introduced or de- 
veloped. Long Island, at the outskirts of New York, was 
quick to feel the new spirit. There is no space here for 
details. The seventies saw the rise of walking and of 
track sports. With these came roller-skating and the 
establishment, on a nation-wide basis, of the national 
game, baseball. In the early eighties croquet spread over 
the country to be followed quickly by lawn tennis. In the 

i Munsey Magazine, May, 1896, 146 ff; Long Island Traveler, XXVI 
(1897), no. 41; XXVIII (1899), nos. 42, 43; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, LIV 
(1894), no. 100; LVI (1896), no. 161; New York State Division of the 
League of American Wheelmen, Fifty Miles Around Brooklyn (1896). 


resorts of Long Island the new games were among the 
earliest played. With these sports came another, limited, 
in the main, to the people of the coast. In 1871, Long 
Island had two yacht clubs, one at Flushing and the other 
at Oyster Bay, the Seawanhaka Yacht Club, that later 
offered the Seawanhaka Cup for international races by 
small yachts. From these beginnings the sport grew 
until, by the end of the century, there was scarcely a bay 
or harbor along the shore that did not have its organiza- 
tion. Last of all the important sports was golf. In 1891, 
at Southampton, the Shinnecock Golf Club was incor- 
porated, the first on the Island and one of the first in 
America. Within nine years, the number of links on the 
Island grew to twenty-four. The sport developed until 
nearly every village had its club. In 1906, the zenith of 
the Long Island development was reached when plans 
were started for the construction in the Shinnecock Hills 
of the famous links of the National Golf Club. The sports 
that have been mentioned are only the more important in 
that development of organized play which came side by 
side with the camping movement. The people of Long 
Island and of the great city of New York have been pro- 
foundly affected. And the development is yet going on. 
What the end is to be only the future can tell. 1 

It is indeed a new civilization that has come to Long 
Island since those days when its people labored "only to 
get bread and clothing, without hopes of ever seeing a 
penny of monies." During the years in which Ruskin 
was trying to point out to his English countrymen the 
beauties of untouched nature, people in America were, 
here and there, awaking to the value of the out of doors. 
They began to go to the mountains, the lakes, and the sea- 

i Mott, Yachts and Yachtsmen of America (1894), I, 671-674; Brooklyn 
Daily Eagle, LVII (1897), nos. 162, 163, 174, 233, 261; Southampton Maga- 
zine, II (1913), no. 2; Summer Homes on Long Island (1900), pp. 12-13. 


shore. After work, they left their offices for the golf 
links, the tennis courts, or the baseball park. Nature and 
sport entered into the warp and woof of life. There can 
be little doubt that this great development has introduced 
a sanity and wholesomeness into our thoughts and point 
of view which was beginning to be sadly needed. The 
story of Long Island, which has become in these later 
years one great playground, may not be typical of the 
whole country. In its development, however, are to be 
found the important phases of the revolution which is 
renewing in the nation a clear brain and a sound heart. 


So they have played the game from the beginning, the 
land and the sea. The people of the Island have believed 
that they were working out their own destinies. They 
have been mistaken. They could not resist the call of the 
ocean to work and later to play. Nor could they prevent 
the creation, by the broad hinterland, of the great city 
at their very doors. Canute could as easily hold back the 
tide as they could exclude these two influences from their 
lives. As their development has gone on, the sea has, in 
the main, been the factor stimulating the variations which 
are an inevitable part of any evolution. One after another 
new vocations have appeared, whaling, fishing, oystering, 
scalloping, caring for the summer visitors, and the rest, 
almost all of them the result of the pull of the ocean. On 
the other hand, the hinterland, acting through the city of 
New York, has been the selective factor, choosing from 
among the variations those which should continue and 
those which should disappear. It has been the hinterland, 
moreover, that has stimulated the conquest of the old, 
primitive environment and the creation of the new, man- 
made environment of the railroad, the macadamized high- 


way, and the city. It is easy to look back at the simple 
days of old and see these two great forces playing with 
the men and women who struggled almost barehanded to 
wrest a living from their primeval surroundings. It is 
not so easy to realize, in the complexity and artificiality 
of modern days, when man is raised on a scaffolding of 
civilization far above the primitive struggle for existence, 
that the same natural forces are still playing the same 
game. Yet, can anyone doubt that the sea, which brought 
the first sturdy adventures to Long Island shores, has lost 
any of its power in these latter days of the wealthy, in- 
corporated fishing company, the oyster and menhaden 
steamer, or the hundreds of summer cottages that line the 
beach? Can anyone look at the sky line of New York City 
and believe that the great hinterland has lost its potency? 

Long Island lies on the eastern frontier of one of the 
world's two areas of most advanced civilization. Across 
the ever narrowing Atlantic, Europe faces America. 
Within sight of the shifting sand dunes of the southern 
beaches pass countless ships in the most important of the 
sea lanes that bind the old world to the new. Far out 
toward the eastern peninsulas stand the towers of a gigan- 
tic radio station making yet more easy communication 
across the ocean barrier. Long Island is of the flesh and 
blood of America, yet its destinies are inextricably inter- 
twined with those of Europe. Two continents with their 
mountains, their plains, and their teeming millions, when 
taken together, form one of the two giant gamesters — 
land. The broad Atlantic with its waste of water, its 
ships, and its multitude of living organisms makes up the 
other — sea. 

There have been strong men who have played large 
parts in the history of Long Island; but they have been 
pigmies beside the two giants that dominate the region. 
These mighty gamesters are still playing as they have 


played since the time when Long Island was but a bit of 
sediment on the ocean bottom. They will continue to 
play, no man can possibly think how long — the game is 
yet young. Perhaps it has been worth while to pause for 
a moment to watch their sport. Perhaps, also, it is not 
amiss to wonder when the game will be over and what 
will have been accomplished when it is done. 


The published literature dealing with Long Island is very exten- 
sive. There are two convenient bibliographies (both incom- 
plete) : one in Martha B. Flint, Early Long Island, New York, 
1896, and the other in Gabriel Furnam, Antiquities of Long 
Island, New York, 1875, the latter compiled by Henry Onder- 
donk, the most prolific of Long Island historians. 

The most important general account of the Island is B. F. 
Thompson, A History of Long Island, New York, 1st edition, 
1839, 2d edition, 2 vols., 1843, 3d edition, edited with critical 
notes, 1918, 3 vols. The work is important for its historical 
material, particularly when supplemented by the notes of the 
third edition. Its chief value, however, as is the case with N. S. 
Prime, History of Long Island, New York, 1845, is as source 
material for the period of date of publication. Both works give 
extensive descriptions of the Island at that time. Martha B. 
Flint, Early Long Island, New York, 1896, and Gabriel Furnam, 
Antiquities of Long Island, are of little value to the modern 
scholar. The most important of the special accounts is R. M. 
Bayles, Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Suffolk County, 
Port Jefferson, 1874. Long Island Historical Society, Memoirs, 
Brooklyn, 1867-1889, 4 vols., have valuable special material. 

The more important descriptions of the Island by travelers and 
others are : The Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679-1680, edited 
by B. B. James and J. F. Jameson, New York, 1913; Timothy 
D wight, Travels in New York and New England, New Haven, 
1821-1822, 4 vols.; and William Cobbett, A Year's Residence in 
the United States of America, New York, 1818-1819, 3 vols. S. L. 
Mitchell, The Picture of New York, New York, 1807 ; H. G. Spaf- 
ford, Gazatteer of the State of New York, Albany, 1813 ; T. F. 
Gordon, Gazatteer of the State of New York, Philadelphia, 1836 ; 
and R. S. Tarr, The Physical Geography of New York State, 
New York, 1902, are all useful. 


Of the greatest importance in getting at the life of the people 
are the newspapers. A list of the more important of those which 
are to be found in the library of the Long Island Historical 
Society is here appended. 

Babylon : 

South Side Signal, 1884-present. 

Suffolk Democrat, 1859-1865. 
Brooklyn : 

Brooklyn Advance (afterwards Monthly Advance), 1882- 

Brooklyn Citizen, 1866-present. 

Brooklyn Daily Advertiser, 1844-1853. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1841-1848, 1856-present. 

Brooklyn Daily Times, 1866-1873, 1876-1878, 1881-1917. 

Brooklyn Daily Union (now Brooklyn Standard Union), 

Long Island Courier, 1800, 1801, 1802 (odd numbers). 

Long Island Star (after 1841 Brooklyn Evening Star), 
Flushing : 

Long Island Times, 1864-1882. 
Greenport : 

Republican Watchman, 1864-1917. 
Hempstead : 

Hempstead Inquirer, 1851-present. 
Jamaica : 

Long Island Farmer and Queens County Advertiser, 1821- 
1823, 1826, 1831-1833, 1835-1836, 1840-1847, 1850- 

Southold : 

Long Island Traveler, 1885-present. 
Sag Harbor : 

Sag Harbor Correcter, 1822-1841 (imperfect). 

Sag Harbor Express, 1859-present. 

Suffolk Gazette, 1806-1809, 1811. 

Suffolk County Herald, 1802-1803. 


The pamphlet literature of the region is voluminous and con- 
tains much valuable material, particularly concerning the de- 
velopment of the Island as a pleasure resort. The best collections 
are to be found in the New York Public Library and the library 
of the Long Island Historical Society. Those which have been 
used in this work are referred to in the footnotes. 

The most important manuscript material is the collection of 
Onderdonk manuscripts deposited in the library of the Long 
Island Historical Society. Its greatest value, however, is to the 
genealogist and the historian of the Quakers. 

Suggestions as to the more important material for special 
topics follow. Geologic history: M. L. Fuller, The Geology of 
Long Island, Professional paper 82, "Washington, 1914; A. C. 
Veatch, Isaiah Bowman, and others, Underground Water Re- 
sources of Long Island, New York, Washington, 1906, each of 
which contains a number of excellent maps. Colonial history: 
E. B. O'Callaghan, editor, Documents Relating to the Colonial 
History of the State of New York, Albany, 1857-1887, 15 vols. ; 
E. B. O'Callaghan, Documentary History of the State of New 
York, Albany, 1849-1851, 4 vols. ; and records of the local town- 
ships, most of which have been printed. Agriculture: L. H. 
Bailey, editor, Cyclopaedia of American Agriculture, New York, 
1907-1910, 4 vols. ; New York Society for the Promoting of Arts, 
Agriculture and Manufactures, Transactions, New York, 1792, 
Albany, 1794-1819; E. L. Fullerton, The Lure of the Land, New 
York, 1906. Fisheries: E. G. Blackford, New York State Com- 
missioner of Fisheries (in charge of the oyster investigation), 
first and second Reports, Albany, 1885, 1887, 2 vols. ; G. Brown 
Goode, "A History of the Menhaden," Report of the United 
States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, "Washington, 1879; 
J. L. Kellogg, The Shell Fish Industries, New York, 1910 ; and 
W. S. Tower, A History of the American Whale Fishery, Phila- 
delphia, 1907. Shipbuilding : Henry Hall, ' ' Shipbuilding Indus- 
try in the United States," United States Census, 1880. Trans- 
portation : E. B. Hinsdale, History of the Long Island Railroad 
Company, New York, 1898. 


Agrarian, aristocracy, 41; awaken- 
ing, 35. 

Agricultural, methods, 35-37, 45, 52- 
53; press, 51; revolution (Eng- 
land), 43; science, 37, 40-41, 47, 
56-57; tools, 39, 55-56. 

Agriculture, 28-62. 

Alfalfa, 44, 53. 

American Fisheries Company, 86. 

American life, 166, 167. 

Angling, 171-172. 

Anti-dredge act, 95. 

Appalachian Mountains, 15-16, 17, 
47, 167. 

Appalachian Eevolution, 15. 

Atlantic Ocean, 27, 76, 89, 107, 111, 
112, 115, 116, 125, 127, 131, 144, 
184, 185. 

Automobile, 154. 

Babylon, 99, 141. 

1 1 Backbone of Long Island, ' ' 19. 

"Back country,'' 36. 

"Barrens" (scrub oak area), 19, 

88, 135, 139, 153, 156-165. 
Baseball, 182. 
Baymen, 91, 94-95, 97-98, 100, 102, 

103, 108, 109. 
Bay Shore, 99. 

Bellomont, Earl of, 119, 121-122. 
Bering Sea, 71. 
Berkshire Agricultural Society, 50, 

Bicycle, 152. 
Bluefish, 77, 113. 
Blue Point, 90, 92. 
Bordley, John B., 42, 45. 
Boston, 28, 38, 117-118, 124, 127. 

Boston and Providence Eailroad, 

Breukelen, 23. 
Brookhaven, 98. 
Brooklyn, 52, 57, 58, 129, 132, 133, 

Brooklyn Bridge, 143. 

Camden and Amboy Eailroad, 132. 

Carlyle, Thomas, 11. 

Cattle, 30, 38, 39, 44. 

Cenozoic Era, 17. 

Charlick, Oliver, 139-141. 

Chesapeake Bay, 103-104. 

Clover, 44, 45, 53. 

Coastwise fleet, 130. 

Cobbett, William, 53. 

Cod, 27, 113-114. 

Coney Island, 177-180. 

Connecticut shore, 104-105. 

Corbin, Austin, 142. 

Cordwood, 125, 128, 157-158. 

Cornell Agricultural College, 57. 

Country homes, 176-177. 

Cow keeper, 30. 

Crop rotation, 45. 

Culver, 178. 

Currency, colonial, 28, 31, 65. 

Cycle paths, 153-154. 

Dairying, 58. 

Diomed, 168. 

Dirt cliffs of north shore, 21. 

Dongan, Gov., 118. 

Duck farming, 60. 

Dutch, 23, 26, 117. 

East Hampton, 23, 26, 64, 65, 67, 
112, 116, 125, 147, 176. 



East Marion, 108. 
Eclipse, 169. 
Eliot, Jared, 41. 
England, 32, 38. 
Englishmen, 23, 26, 39. 
Erie canal, 48, 49, 57. 
Europe, 13, 185. 

Far Rockaway, 148, 172-174. 
Farm management, pioneer, 31. 
Farniingdale, 160. 
Farms, demonstration, 162-163 ; duck, 

60 j flower, 58. 
Ferry, Greenport-Stonington, 133; 

Huntington-Norwalk, 125 ; Port 

Jefferson-Bridgeport, 130. 
Fish traps, 114. 
Fishermen, 112-115. 
Fishing, 111-115. 
Fire Island Beach, 21, 89, 113, 114, 

Flax, 31. 

Fleet, coastwise, 130. 
Flushing, 129, 141, 149, 176, 183. 
Frontier, 36. 

Forest, clearing of, 28-29. 
Forest fires, 137, 157-158, 172. 
Fort Pond Bay, 114. 
Fullerton, Edith Loring, 162. 
Fullerton, H. B., 162, 163. 

Games, 167. 

Gardening, 58-59. 

Gardiners Bay, 81. 

Glacial out wash plains, 19-21. 

Glaciers, 19. 

Goats, 30. 

Golf, 183. 

Gravesend, 25, 30. 

Great South Bay, 21, 76, 89-90, 94, 

97-98, 99, 100-102, 108, 113-114, 

125, 127, 176. 
Greenport, 58, 69, 80, 83-84, 87, 108, 

113, 129, 133-134, 138, 176. 
Guano, 80. 
Gypsum, 45. 

Haman-Seth Law, 104. 

Hell Gate Arch Bridge, 144. 

Hempstead, 25, 38, 176. 

Hempstead Plains, 30, 38, 160, 168. 

Henry, 169. 

Hicksville, 138. 

Highways, 35, 145-155. 

Hinsdale, E. B., 142. 

Hinterland, 12, 34, 35, 57, 115, 144, 

184, 185. 
Horse-racing, 167-170. 
Horse rake, 55. 

Hudson-Mohawk Gateway, 13, 57. 
Humphries, Col. David, 43-44. 
Hunting, 171-172. 
Huntington, 25, 38, 112, 119, 149. 

Indians, 24, 25, 26, 27-28, 64, 66, 

71, 89. 
Internal improvements, 37. 
Iron Steamboat Company, 179. 

Jamaica, 112, 132, 138, 168, 176. 
Jamesport, 69, 108. 
" Jingle shells," 111. 

Kidd, Capt., 121-122. 
King, Eufus, 169. 

L'Hommedieu, Ezra, 42, 45, 78. 

Labor, division of, 32. 

Lakeland, 160. 

Land, ownership of, 24-25. 

Landings, 38, 124. 

League of American Wheelmen, 152, 

Livingston, Robert, 43, 44, 45, 51, 53. 

Long Island, general description, 12- 
13 ; geologic history of, 15-22 ; 
settled, 23-25; pioneer life on, 25- 
33; agriculture, 34-62; whaling, 
63-75; menhaden fishing, 76-88; 
oyster fishing, 89-105; scallop fish- 
ing, 106-111; fishing, 111-115; 
smuggling, 116-120; piracy, 120- 



123; sea trade, 124-131; ship- 
building, 126-129; railroads, 132- 
144; highways, 145-155; "Bar- 
rens," 156-165; sports and out-of- 
door movement, 166-184; conclu- 
sions, 184-185. 

Long Island Eailroad, 58, 93, 129, 
132-144, 160-161, 162, 176, 181. 

Long Island Sound, 18, 81, 90, 103, 
104, 117, 120, 125, 127, 128. 

Lucern, 44. 

Macadam highways, 152-153. 

Mackerel, 114. 

Maine Oil and Guano Association, 

Marine Pavilion, 173, 177. 
Maryland, 3 03-104. 
Medford, 162. 
Menhaden, 27, 39, 52, 60, 76-88, 114, 

Menhaden, fish companies, 79, 81; 

oil factories, 80, 81, 84; steamer, 

Merchant marine, 127. 
Mesozoic Era, 15-17. 
Mills, grist, 33. 
Montauk, 19, 20, 23, 30, 39. 
Moore, D. D. T., 161. 
Morrill Act, 56-57. 
Musketo Cove, 119. 

Nantucket Island, 67, 70. 

New Amsterdam, 23, 117. 

New Bedford, 68, 70. 

New England, 18, 24, 25, 35, 38, 110, 
117, 119, 122. 

New London, 68. 

New Suffolk, 69, 107-108. 

New York City, 32, 33, 38, 52, 55, 
57, 58, 87, 88, 93, 99, 107, 108, 110, 
113, 114, 117, 119, 120, 124, 126, 
127, 129, 136, 144, 161, 163, 164, 
168, 171, 172, 173, 177, 178, 179, 
181, 182. 

New York Province, 32, 112, 118, 

New York Society for the Promotion 
of Arts, Agriculture and Manu- 
factures, 42-43. 

New York State, 96, 132. 

Out-of-door movement, 166-184. 

Ox, 31-32, 56. 

Oyster Bay, 119, 149, 183. 

Oyster, bars, 103; dredge, 93-94; 

packing houses, 92; planting, 95- 

96; tonging, 91. 
Oystering, 89-105. 

Paleozoic Era, 15. 
Patchogue, 92, 99, 140, 181. 
Peconic Bay, 63, 76, 105-107, 120. 
Pennsylvania Eailroad, 143. 
Peters, Ralph, 162. 
Peters, Eichard, 42, 44. 
Piracy, 120-123. 
Popenhusen, Conrad, 142. 
Port Jefferson, 20, 126, 128, 140. 
Promised Land, 84, 85, 87. 
Puritans, 24, 120. 

Eandolph, John, 169. 
Eevolutionary War, 125, 166. 
Eiverhead, 108, 138. 

Sag Harbor, 67, 68-69, 70, 73-74, 

108, 129, 133, 138, 140. 
Sayville, 83, 99. 
Scalloping, 106-111. 
Sea trade, 38, 124-131. 
Setauket, 119. 
Sharp, T. E., 119. 
Sheep, 30, 39, 44. 
Shelter Island, 83, 89, 108, 176. 
Shipbuilding, 126-129. 
Smithtown, 25, 147, 149. 
Smuggling, 32, 116-120. 
South Hampton, 23, 64, 65, 67, 116, 

176, 183. 



South Side Kailroad, 140-141. 
Southold, 23, 30, 38, 116, 138. 
Sports, 367-172, 182-183. 
Standard Oil Company, 85-86. 
Steamboat, 129-130. 
Stony Brook, 126. 
Swine, 30. 

Tennis, 182. 

Trade exchanges, Eastern Long Is- 
land-Boston, 28, 38, 117, 118; 
Eastern Long Island-New York, 
28, 38, 130-131; Long Island 
Sound, 125-126, 129; New York- 
Boston, 133-134, 137-138; Green- 
port - Sag Harbor - New London - 
Hartford, 130. 

Turnpikes, 52, 54, 148-150. 

Underwood, William, 103, 102. 

Washington, George, 41. 

Watering places, 172. 

Watson, Elkanah, 49-50. 

Watson, W. C, 160. 

Wells, D. D., 80. 

West, 47, 48, 55. 

West Indies, 118. 

Whale oil, 117-118, 127. 

Whaling, 63-75. 

Whaling, companies, 66; ships, 70. 

Windmills, 39. 

Wisconsin Ice Sheet, 19-20. 

Yale University, 56. 
Yaphank, 160. 
Young, Arthur, 43. 


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